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Odgers' Australian Senate Practice Thirteenth Edition

Chapter 9 - Motions and amendments

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A motion which has been duly moved and has become a question before the Senate may be the subject of an amendment, which may be moved without notice, except where the standing orders provide that particular motions are not open to amendment.

The following motions are not open to amendment:

  1. for the adjournment of the Senate under SO 53(3)
  2. formal motions under SO 66
  3. to determine the postponement of business for which the senator in charge has lodged a postponement notification under SO 67
  4. for the first reading of bills, except bills which the Senate may not amend under SO 112(1)
  5. for a bill to be considered an urgent bill under SO 142(1)
  6. for the chair to report progress and ask leave for the committee of the whole to sit again under SO 144(6)
  7. that an objection to a ruling by the chair requires immediate determination under SO 198(2)
  8. for an extension of time for a senator to speak under SO 189(1)
  9. for a debate to be adjourned under SO 201(2)
  10. for the closure of a debate under SO 199(1)
  11. for a senator to be suspended from the sitting of the Senate, in case of disorder under SO 203(3)
  12. urgency motions under SO 75(6)
  13. for the business of the day to be called on, moved during discussion of a matter of public importance under SO 75(8).


Some of these standing orders provide only that motions are not debatable, but such non-debatable motions also cannot be amended, because senators cannot receive the call to move amendments to them. The standing orders may provide explicit exceptions to this principle.[50]

There are three kinds of amendments:

  • to leave out words of the motion
  • to leave out words in order to substitute other words
  • to insert or add words.

The mover of an amendment must submit it in writing and sign it.[51] Normally copies of amendments are circulated in the Senate chamber. These rules are not enforced where an amendment is simple and easily understood.[52]

Although not required to do so, senators occasionally give notice of amendments, to alert other senators of the content of amendments to be moved.[53]

An amendment must be relevant to the motion to which it is moved.[54] This requirement is interpreted liberally so as not to restrict unduly the rights of senators. If an amendment relates to the subject matter of a motion or to a closely related subject matter it is accepted.

An amendment may not be moved if it is a direct negative to the question.[55] An amendment is not regarded as a direct negative unless it would have exactly the same effect as negativing the motion.[56]

An amendment may not be moved if it is the same in substance as an amendment already determined to the same question, or would have the effect only of reversing an amendment already made.[57] This rule prevents issues already decided being canvassed again by means of amendments. An amendment is accepted, however, if its effect is in any way different from one which has already been determined. An amendment moved in a different context, for example, as part of a different “package” of proposals, is not the same amendment even if identical in terms to one already moved.[58]

A senator who has moved a motion or who has spoken in the debate on it may not move an amendment, and a senator may not move more than one amendment to a motion.[59] Either of those actions would involve a senator receiving the call more than once in relation to a motion. These rules do not apply in committee of the whole, however, where a senator may speak more than once on any question.[60]

When an amendment to a motion has been proposed, it must be disposed of before another amendment may be moved.[61] So that the rights of senators are not unduly restricted, by long-established practice a senator who speaks in a debate after an amendment has been moved and who wishes to move another amendment may foreshadow the further amendment and move it when the original amendment is determined.

As with an original motion, an amendment once moved is in the possession of the Senate and may not be withdrawn except by leave.[62]

Where a motion is the subject of an amendment, at the conclusion of the debate the President puts the question that the amendment be agreed to, and then the question that the motion (as amended, if the amendment has been passed) be agreed to.

An amendment may be moved to a proposed amendment as if the proposed amendment were the original question. The procedure of moving an amendment to an amendment is used where, for example, a senator wishes to agree to words which are proposed to be inserted or added to a motion but wishes to modify them. Where an amendment to an amendment is moved, the chair first puts the amendment to the amendment, then the amendment (as amended if the amendment to the amendment is agreed to), and finally the original motion (as amended if any amendment has been agreed to). This procedure ensures that the motion which finally emerges, if it is passed, has the support of a majority of senators present and voting, and that a senator is not compelled to vote on a motion until there has been opportunity to put it into a form with which the senator could be in complete agreement.

As an alternative to the moving of an amendment, a senator, usually the mover of a motion, may amend a motion by leave before it is put.

Where the Senate has before it a resolution of the House of Representatives to which the Senate’s agreement is sought, the Senate cannot amend the resolution, and therefore may agree to the resolution subject to specified amendments or modifications.


50. For example, under SO 24A(7), an amendment may be moved to a motion to adopt a report of the Selection of Bills Committee even when the time for debate on the motion has expired.
51. SO 90(2).
52. Ruling of President Turley, SD, 4/12/1912, p. 6329.
53. 12/2/2008, J. 17; Notice Paper 13/2/2008, p. 3.
54. SO 90(3).
55. Rulings of President Baker, SD, 17/11/1904, p. 7072, 19/10/1905, p. 3757.
56. Ruling of acting Deputy President Wood, SD, 14/8/1968, p. 68.
57. SO 92.
58. SD, 8/11/2000, pp. 19358-9; 18/8/2003, p. 13832.
59. SO 90(4).
60. See Chapter 10, Debate, under Right to speak, and Chapter 14, Committee of the Whole Proceedings, under Right to speak and Time limits.
61. SO 91(2).
62. SO 91(3).