Odgers' Australian Senate Practice Thirteenth Edition

Chapter 18 - Documents tabled in the Senate

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Documents quoted in debate

A document quoted by a senator may be ordered to be laid on the table by motion without notice moved immediately on the conclusion of the speech of the senator who quoted the document.[100] Ministers may refuse to table a document under this procedure if it is stated to be of a confidential nature or if it should more properly be obtained by address. Such a refusal is subject to any subsequent order of the Senate that the document be produced.

In practice, senators usually ask other senators if they will table quoted documents. Ministers may table documents by right but may decline to table on the basis that the quoted document is confidential. A senator who is not a minister has no power to table documents under the standing orders, and must obtain the leave of the Senate to do so. It is more appropriate therefore for senators wanting documents quoted by private senators to follow the standing orders and move that the document be tabled. That motion is open to debate, subject to the rule of relevance, so that debate is confined to reasons for tabling the document.

The Standing Orders Committee recommended, in the light of contradictory precedents, that the standing order should be interpreted as applying only to a document actually in a senator’s possession in the chamber. This principle has since been followed.

The Standing Orders Committee also recommended, that the terms of standing order 168 apply only to a document which is actually quoted by a senator and have no application to speech notes used by a senator. [101] There have nevertheless been cases of senators tabling their speech notes.

The operation of these procedures is set out more fully in Chapter 10, Debate, under Quotation of documents.


100. SO 168.
101. First Report, 62nd Session, PP 504/1985.

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