Display standard website

Odgers' Australian Senate Practice Thirteenth Edition

Chapter 10 - Debate

Right click over the text to activate a context menu for Odgers. (Note: on iPad Safari this function is activated by a finger press and holding down for several seconds.)


A senator is guilty of an offence if the senator:

  1. (a) persistently and wilfully obstructs the business of the Senate;
  2. (b) is guilty of disorderly conduct;
  3. (c) uses objectionable words, and refuses to withdraw such words;
  4. (d) persistently and wilfully refuses to conform to the standing orders; or
  5. (e) persistently and wilfully disregards the authority of the Chair.[141]

The President may report to the Senate that a senator has committed an offence; this is known as "naming" the senator.

A senator who has been reported as having committed an offence is called upon to make an explanation or apology. It is open to the chair to accept the explanation or apology.[142] If the explanation or apology is not acceptable, a motion may be moved that the senator be suspended from the sitting of the Senate, and that motion must be put and determined without any amendment, adjournment or debate.[143]

If an offence is committed in committee of the whole, the Chair of Committees reports the matter to the President, the Senate resuming for that purpose.[144]

If two or more senators are reported for offences, separate suspension motions are moved.[145]

The suspension of a senator is for the remainder of that day's sitting, but if a senator commits a second offence in the same calendar year the suspension is for seven sitting days, and for any subsequent offences within a calendar year a suspension is for 14 sitting days. A senator who has been suspended from the sitting of the Senate may not enter the Senate chamber during the period of the suspension.[146]

The suspension of a senator from the sitting of the Senate does not prevent the senator attending a meeting of a Senate committee, and does not affect any of the senator's other entitlements.

On 19 December 1991 the suspension of a senator was rescinded after debate on the incident leading to the suspension.[147]

A senator who leaves the chamber after being reported for an offence may be ordered to return.[148] A senator who wilfully disobeys an order of the Senate may be ordered to attend the Senate and may be taken into custody.[149]

The Senate may impose a greater penalty on a senator by special order if the Senate considers that course appropriate.[150] The power of the Senate to punish contempts under section 49 of the Constitution and the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987 extends to senators.[151]

The procedures relating to disorder are salutary in that the responsibility for maintaining order is imposed on the whole Senate, rather than the chair or any other particular authority. This principle is reflected in the rule that any senator may move a suspension motion, and the Senate must vote on it.


Suspensions of senators for disorder are now very rare in the Senate.


141. SO 203(1).
142. See, for example, ruling of Acting Deputy President Aulich, SD, 25/6/1992, pp. 4626-37.
143. SO 203(3).
144. SO 203(2).
145. 4/3/1932, J.28; 30/5/1972, J.1024.
146. SO 204.
147. 19/12/1991, J.1985-6, 1990.
148. 18/10/1962, J.156; 9/5/1968, J.71; 22/4/1971, J.534.
149. SO 206.
150. Statement by President McMullin, 9/5/1968, J.72.
151. See Chapter 2, Parliamentary Privilege.