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Odgers' Australian Senate Practice Thirteenth Edition

Chapter 12 - Legislation

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Proceedings on legislation

The procedures of the Senate provide for a bill to be initiated in the Senate or received from the House of Representatives and, after an appropriate delay to allow examination of the bill, to be considered in principle. If the Senate agrees to the bill in principle, it may then be examined in detail and amended if the Senate considers that its details require alteration or adjustment. There is then an opportunity for a bill, as amended, to be considered finally and agreed to.

The principal stages of the passage of a bill are referred to as "readings", and are formally marked by the Clerk reading the long title of the bill.

The stages in the passage of a bill are:

  1. (a) introduction or receipt from the House of Representatives and first reading
  2. (b) second reading - consideration of the principle of the bill
  3. (c) referral to a standing or select committee - for consideration of the details of the bill (although referral to a committee historically occurred after the second reading, a bill may be referred to a committee before the second reading)
  4. (d) committee of the whole - this is the opportunity for the Senate to make amendments to the bill or to agree to amendments which have been recommended by a standing or select committee
  5. (e) third reading - final consideration of the bill as amended and the opportunity finally to agree to it.

When a bill has passed through these stages and received a third reading it has been finally passed by the Senate.

Within and between these stages of a bill's passage, opportunities are provided by the procedures for the reconsideration of a bill. There are also several opportunities for a bill to be rejected by the Senate. Some procedures for rejection are designed to dispose of a bill with an indication of finality, while others involve only withholding agreement at that stage to a bill. A bill may, however, subsequently be revived or presented again in accordance with other procedures.