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Odgers' Australian Senate Practice Thirteenth Edition

Chapter 14 - Committee of the whole proceedings

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Proceedings in committee

A committee of the whole may consider only the matters referred to it by the Senate.[5] A committee appointed to consider a bill or a particular document cannot move to a consideration of any other matter; if another matter is to be considered the Senate has to appoint another committee of the whole.

Except to the extent that the standing orders provide different rules for proceedings in committee of the whole, the same rules apply as in the Senate, and the Chair of Committees has the same authority to uphold the rules in committee.[6] Questions in committee are decided in the same manner as in the Senate,[7] and a committee of the whole has the same majority as the Senate.

The Chair of Committees and a committee of the whole, however, have no authority to deal with disorder. Any disorder must be reported to the Senate, with the President taking the chair.[8] The President may resume the chair in cases of sudden disorder in committee.[9]

The Chair of Committees may make rulings in committee to interpret and apply the rules of the Senate, but if any objection is taken to a ruling of the Chair the Senate resumes, and the matter is laid before the President for decision.[10]

The most significant difference between proceedings in the Senate and in committee is that in committee senators may speak more than once and move any number of amendments to the same question.[11] This is the essence of committee proceedings: they provide an opportunity for thorough consideration of a matter, and that consideration does not conclude until senators do not wish to speak any further or move any further amendments.

There are certain minor restrictions on proceedings in committee. A committee cannot consider any motion which is contrary to its decisions; only the Senate can reverse a decision of a committee.[12] The motion for the previous question cannot be moved.[13] If a motion for the closure of debate or that the committee report progress is moved (the equivalent of adjourning debate, see below), neither of those motions may be moved again within 15 minutes.[14]

For the suspension of standing orders in committee, see Chapter 8, Conduct of Proceedings, under Suspension of standing orders.

5. SO 144(1).
6. SO 144(7).
7. SO 144(2).
8. SO 144(7), 203(2); see Chapter 10, Debate, under Disorder.
9. SO 146(1).
10. SO 145, 198.
11. SO 144(5).
12. SO 144(3).
13. SO 144(4); see Chapter 9, Motions and Amendments, under Previous question.
14. SO 144(6).