Odgers' Australian Senate Practice Thirteenth Edition

Chapter 14 - Committee of the whole proceedings

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Debate in committee

As has already been indicated, in committee of the whole senators may speak more than once to questions before the chair.

A special time limit applies to debate in committee of the whole. A senator may not speak for more than 15 minutes at a time, but when a senator has spoken for 15 minutes and no other senator rises to speak, the senator speaking may continue to speak for a further 15 minutes. If there is then no other senator who wishes to speak, the senator speaking may not continue on the same question.[19]

This means that if only one senator wishes to speak on a question before a chair, that senator is limited to 30 minutes’ speaking time. The rule also means that at least two senators, speaking in turn, are required to keep debate going on a question in committee of the whole; a senator who speaks twice without any other senator rising cannot continue on the same question.[20] When a senator is interrupted by the time limit, but has obviously not finished the speech, another senator may seek the call to speak and speak briefly solely for the purpose of allowing the senator whose time has expired to continue. The senator seeking the call may merely say: “I rise only to allow the senator to continue the senator’s speech”, and then sit down, allowing the senator whose time has expired to seek the call again and to continue speaking with what is technically a new speaking opportunity. This procedure also facilitates full debate in committee of the whole.

If a committee reports progress (see below), which means, in effect, that the consideration of the matter before it is adjourned, every senator, including a senator who has spoken for 30 minutes continuously, has renewed speaking opportunities when the committee resumes consideration of that matter. If the sitting of a committee is suspended, a senator speaking at the time of the suspension has the right to continue when the sitting is resumed for the balance of the time available to the senator.

19. SO 189(3).
20. See SD, 26/8/1999, p. 7805-6, Temporary Chair Hogg and Senator Brown.