An opportunity is provided in the routine of business of the Senate for motions of which notice has been given to be put and determined without debate or amendment, provided that no senator present objects to that course. When notice of a motion has been given for a particular day, at the time provided on that day a senator may ask that the motion be taken as formal. If no senator present objects, the motion is then moved, put and determined without debate or amendment. This process is called “discovery of formal business”. This procedure provides a means whereby senators may seek to have their motions determined without waiting for the notice of the motions to be reached in the normal course of proceedings, subject to the concurrence of all senators present, and at the price of forgoing debate on, and the amendment of, the motion.
A motion may be divided under standing order 84(3) and one part of it determined as a formal motion.
While most motions taken as formal are uncontroversial and are agreed to, some are negatived and some are taken to a division.