Odgers' Australian Senate Practice Thirteenth Edition

Chapter 12 - Legislation

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Control of bills

When a bill has been introduced into the Senate it is under the control of the Senate and may be considered and dealt with as the Senate decides.

Although for some purposes the standing orders refer to the senator in charge of an item of business,211 a senator who has introduced an item of business is not in charge of it in the sense that the senator can determine its fate; that is for the Senate to decide.

In relation to bills, the standing orders do not distinguish between senators in charge of bills and other senators, so that any senator can move the various motions for the passage of a bill.212 The Senate may therefore not only reject or defer a bill, but proceed with it in spite of the wishes of the senator, whether a minister or a private senator, who introduced it. The situation which occurred in the Senate on 5 and 10 October 1950, of an order of the day relating to a government bill not being called on because a minister did not wish it to be called on, was clearly contrary to the standing orders.213

Thus a government bill may be brought on by the non-government majority.214 On 23 and 25 June 2009, the non-government parties in the Senate gave precedence over the government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation to several other government bills, and postponed the former to the next period of sittings, while specifying the day on which it would finally be dealt with.215


On 23 November 2009, the Health Insurance Amendment (Compliance) Bill 2009 was brought on by the non-government senators and given precedence over other business, against the wishes of the government, to allow amendments to be moved to it.216 The message containing the government's rejection of the amendments was also brought on by the non-government senators on 26 November 2009.217

In 1988 the Senate made a special order that a private senator's bill was to take precedence until a minister made a speech on the second reading.218 In 2000 the Senate gave a private senator's bill, the Human Rights (Mandatory Sentencing of Juvenile Offenders) Bill, precedence over all government business, passed it and sent messages urging its consideration to the House, where it was suppressed by the government.219 Other private senators' bill have also been given precedence.220

Bills have been deferred until draft regulations were tabled,221 and until the Selection of Bills Committee reported.222 A government bill may be discharged from the Notice Paper on the motion of a non-government senator.223

In 2009 government legislation to establish the National Broadband Network was postponed until the government produced information required by an order of the Senate.224