Display standard website

Odgers' Australian Senate Practice Thirteenth Edition

Chapter 19 - Relations with the executive government

Right click over the text to activate a context menu for Odgers. (Note: on iPad Safari this function is activated by a finger press and holding down for several seconds.)


Questions to ministers

At the time specified in the routine of business, questions without notice may be put to ministers relating to public affairs.[202] Provision is also made for questions on notice, that is, questions put and answered in writing.[203] Although questions may also be put to the President of the Senate,[204] they are mainly used to obtain information from the ministry, and are therefore dealt with in this chapter. Questions to chairs of committees and other senators who are not ministers were abolished in 2009.[205]

Questions without notice: question time

Question time for questions without notice occurs at 2 pm on each sitting day.

Time limits are imposed on questions and answers at question time. Standing order 72(3) provides that:

  1. (a) the asking of each question not exceed 1 minute and the answering of each question not exceed 4 minutes;
  2. (b) the asking of each supplementary question not exceed 1 minute and the answering of each supplementary question not exceed 1 minute.

These provisions are currently modified by a temporary order, first adopted in November 2008. The new procedures for question time, involve a two minute time limit on answers to primary questions, two supplementary questions allowed to the questioner, and a requirement for direct relevance in the answers.[206] The trial was further modified on 25 November 2009 by the adoption of a 30 second time limit on the asking of supplementary questions.[207]

While standing orders give senators the right to ask questions of ministers and certain other senators there is no corresponding obligation on those questioned to give an answer. President Baker ruled on 26 August 1902 that there was "no obligation on a minister or other member to answer a question", and in 1905 he ruled: "It is a matter of policy whether the Government will answer a question or not. There are no standing orders which can force a minister or other senator to answer a question".[208] Other presidents have stated that answers are "optional" or "discretionary" and that, "There is no obligation on a minister to answer: he does so merely as a matter of courtesy".[209] These rulings relate to the conduct of question time and do not preclude the Senate taking some separate action to obtain the required information.

The standing orders prescribe no limit to the duration of questions without notice. In practice, about one hour is usually occupied by questions without notice, at the expiration of which time the Leader of the Government in the Senate or the minister at the table asks senators to put any further questions on the Notice Paper. As ministers are not obliged to answer questions without notice (see above), this effectively terminates question time for that day.

Except for the period 26 September 1967 to 27 March 1973, it has been the practice for question time to be ended by a minister asking that any further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.

On 26 September 1967 the Leader of the Government in the Senate moved that further questions be placed upon the Notice Paper. The President stated that it was the practice of the Senate that a minister had the right to ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper, without proposing a motion. A motion, proposed by an Opposition senator, was agreed to that questions without notice be proceeded with. Ministers answered further questions, although they were not obliged to.[210]

For some years after the 1967 proceedings no minister attempted to terminate question time by means of asking that further questions be placed upon the Notice Paper, and the duration of question time increased markedly, from about 45 minutes prior to 1967 to 80 minutes at the end of 1972 and 110 minutes during the early part of the 1973 session. Question time was curtailed for a brief period at the end of 1972, however. Faced with a large amount of business to be dealt with in the remaining days of the session, the government moved:

That, unless otherwise ordered, question time including questions on notice, for the remainder of the present period of sittings, shall not exceed 45 minutes.

The motion was passed on October 25 1972 and for the remaining four days of the 27th Parliament question time was limited accordingly.[211]

A general election was held in December 1972 and when the Senate resumed in February 1973 the practice which had been followed since 1967 (with the exception of the four days in October 1972) was briefly resumed before being replaced on 27 March 1973 by the practice which had obtained prior to 1967. President Cormack then made a statement concerning questions in which he outlined the practice which prevailed until 26 September 1967 and noted that since that time no minister had attempted to terminate question time as long as senators wished to ask questions. He stated:

Notwithstanding the September 1967 proceedings there is still no obligation upon a minister to answer questions, and if the minister in charge asks after a certain time that further questions without notice be placed on the notice paper I believe that I have no alternative but to call the next business.[212]

The rationale for the restoration of the earlier practice was that the decision of 26 September 1967 to extend question time applied to that day only and the fact that for the next five years the government had chosen not exercise the right to terminate question time at the request of the minister at the table did not affect the validity of this practice. Consequently, on the next occasion after 1967 that the minister at the table asked that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper, the President ruled in accordance with traditional practice.

Following the President's ruling, subsequently repeated,[213] the Senate proceeded to the next business, but the Leader of the Opposition intended that the practice should be reviewed. On 29 March 1973 the Leader of the Opposition moved:

That, in the absence of any Standing Order on the matter, honourable Senators' right to question Ministers is limited only by the judgment of the Senate, and that Ministers who seek recognition from the Senate are obliged to answer questions with a promptness and accuracy appropriate to ministerial responsibility.

The motion was debated but not voted upon.[214]

On 10 April 1973, the Leader of the Opposition gave notice that, contingent upon any minister asking, on any day of sitting during question time, that further questions without notice be placed on the Notice Paper, he might move: That questions without notice be further proceeded with. A similar notice of motion was given in the 1974 session. These notices were not used.

President O'Byrne confirmed the restoration of the traditional practice when, on 11 July 1974,[215] he stated that after the minister in charge "asks that further questions without notice be placed on the notice paper the Chair regards itself as bound by practice to call on the next business". The question of a minister's right to terminate question time was raised next in 1979, when President Laucke stated that the practice of question time being terminated by the Leader of the Government requesting that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper was well established and had been recognised by successive Presidents.[216]

The practice was considered in 1980 by the Standing Orders Committee, which confirmed in its report to the Senate that it was a long-established practice for question time to be terminated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate asking that further questions be placed on notice.[217] The basis of the practice, the committee reported, is that it is competent for ministers to ask that any questions be placed on the Notice Paper and that ministers, in any case, are not bound to answer questions. The committee did not consider that it ought to recommend any change in the practice.

On 25 June 1992 the Opposition successfully moved a motion, for which the Opposition Leader had on the Notice Paper a special contingent notice of motion to suspend standing orders, to extend question time that day. Time was extended to enable five further questions to be put to ministers by Opposition senators.[218]

On 19 October 1999 question time was extended on several days in response to a refusal by a minister to produce a document in accordance with an order of the Senate.[219]

Although the government can end question time by asking that further questions be placed on notice, question time is an item in the Senate's routine of business, and, as such, cannot be dispensed with except by a decision of the Senate to alter the routine of business which explicitly or implicitly has that effect.

For the effect of censure motions on the duration of question time, see above, under Ministerial accountability and censure motions.

For the history of the time limits on questions and answers, see the Annotated Standing Orders of the Australian Senate, under SO 72.

The chair seeks to call senators to ask questions so as to achieve an appropriate allocation of questions among parties and independent senators. By custom the chair observes an order for the allocation of questions agreed to by senators. In its second report of 1995, the Procedure Committee endorsed the principle of proportionality, that is, that the allocation of questions between the various parties, groups and independent senators should be as nearly as practicable in proportion to their numbers in the Senate.[220] The allocation of questions, however, is not governed by any rule of the Senate.[221]

The Leader of the Opposition, when seeking to ask a question, is accorded priority over all other non-government senators.[222] The call is given to senators who have not asked questions before calling any senator for a second time.[223]

Supplementary questions

Supplementary questions were introduced in the Senate on the initiative of the chair. In 1973 President Cormack decided that, within reasonable limits, he would allow supplementary questions to elucidate an answer already given.

Supplementary questions must relate to or arise from the answer. It is not in order to ask a supplementary question to another minister. A supplementary question must be directed to the minister initially answering the question and when a minister has asked that a question be put on notice a supplementary question may not be asked.[224]

In 1980 the Standing Orders Committee considered the question of whether senators ought to be allowed to ask supplementary questions in relation to answers which are given by ministers after the termination of question time. It was recommended that, if senators wish to ask further questions in relation to these deferred answers, they should do so either by asking leave to do so, when the answer is given, or by asking their questions in the normal way at question time on a subsequent day. The Standing Orders Committee's report was noted by the Senate.[225]

On 14 April 1986 President McClelland made a statement concerning the use of supplementary questions. After noting that supplementary questions began in 1973, the President stated:

Since that time successive Presidents have consistently ruled that supplementary questions are appropriate only for the purposes of elucidating information arising from the original question and answer. They are not appropriate for the purpose of introducing additional or new material or proposing a new question, even though such a question might be related to the subject matter of the original question.

It is my impression that recently attempts have been made to extend the scope of supplementary questions by the use of what I would call doublebarrelled questions; the second, the supplementary question, being held back for asking, virtually irrespective of the answer to the original. I do not believe that is a proper use of the supplementary question procedure which I remind senators is completely within the control of the chair.[226]

Supplementary questions were recognised in standing and other orders on the introduction of time limits on questions and answers in 1992 (see above). Two supplementary questions for each primary question are permitted under the temporary orders currently in operation.

Questions on notice

Questions at question time are supposed to be without notice. The Standing Orders Committee, in a 1980 report, reviewed the longestablished practice of senators giving ministers informal advice prior to question time of the subject on which they proposed to ask questions, so that ministers might obtain information on those subjects.[227] The committee considered that this was an acceptable practice, particularly in a chamber where ministers represent several ministries in addition to their own, and that it leads to a more satisfactory question time. The committee noted, however, that there was a distinction between this practice of giving informal advice of the subject of a question to be asked and the giving of written notice of the precise terms of a question calling for a detailed answer as provided for in the standing order dealing with questions on notice.

A question may be submitted on notice by a senator signing and delivering it to the Clerk, fairly written, printed, or typed. Notice may be given by one senator on behalf of another.[228] The Clerk is required to place notices of questions on the Notice Paper in the order in which they are received.[229]

Each question on notice is allocated a number and the text of the question is published in the Notice Paper. All questions which remain unanswered appear in the full online version of the Notice Paper and those that have remained unanswered for 30 or more days are noted.

A reply to a question on notice is given by delivering it to the Clerk, and a copy is supplied to the senator who asked the question. The question and reply is printed in Hansard.[230] A senator who has received a copy of a reply pursuant to this standing order may, by leave, immediately after questions without notice, ask the question and have the reply read in the Senate,[231] but this procedure is seldom used. The publication of the reply is authorised on its provision to the senator.[232]

A senator who asks a question on notice and does not receive an answer within 30 days may seek an explanation and take certain other actions.[233]

This provision, first adopted on 28 September 1988,[234] on the motion of Senator Macklin, provides:

If a minister does not answer a question on notice asked by a senator within 30 days of the asking of that question, and does not, within that period, provide to the senator who asked the question an explanation satisfactory to that senator of why an answer has not yet been provided:

  1. (a) at the conclusion of question time on any day after that period, the senator may ask the relevant minister for such an explanation; and
  2. (b) the senator may, at the conclusion of the explanation, move without notice 'That the Senate take note of the explanation'; or
  3. (c) in the event that the minister does not provide an explanation, the senator may, without notice, move a motion with regard to the minister's failure to provide either an answer or an explanation.

If an explanation of the failure to answer questions within 30 days is not forthcoming when requested at the end of question time, the motion which is moved may be for any purpose, but is often a motion for an order for the answers and explanations to be tabled by a specified date. The procedure was first used by Senator Macklin on 23 November 1988 and has been frequently used since. The government has complied with orders made under this procedure to table answers by a specified date.[235] On one occasion a minister was censured for the delay in answering.[236]

A statement by a minister that an answer is being prepared, or that a question is under consideration, is not regarded as an explanation of failure to answer the question.[237]

The practice of ministers leaving the chamber immediately at the end of question time has meant that on several occasions the relevant minister has not been present to give an explanation, despite prior warning being given by the senator who asked the overdue question on notice. Despite requests from the President[238] the practice continued and on 17 April 1991 the Senate passed a motion expressing its "continuing concern at the lack of courtesy by Ministers in failing to attend the Chamber and to provide adequate reasons for failure to answer questions".[239]

If in response to a senator having asked for an explanation of failure to answer a question, an answer is immediately produced by a minister, it is not open to a senator to move the motions otherwise authorised by the order. The rationale of the order is to encourage ministers to answer questions, and once a question is answered the procedure in the order no longer operates in relation to the question.[240]

On 16 June 1992, a senator took the unusual step of tabling by leave answers to questions on notice of which he had received copies, and then by leave moving a motion to take note of the answers and debating them.[241]

Under standing order 74(5), the procedure applies also to questions on notice lodged during estimates hearings.[242]

When final answers to questions on notice have not been given before the Senate adjourns, government departments and agencies furnish replies in the usual manner to the Department of the Senate which forwards them to the senators concerned. On the resumption of the next sittings, the replies are incorporated in Hansard.

One of the consequences of a prorogation of the Parliament is that all business on the Notice Paper lapses on the day before the next sitting. Thus, questions submitted before the prorogation and not answered before the next sitting need to be resubmitted in order to appear on the Notice Paper in the next session. The Department of the Senate writes to senators whose questions had not been answered, inquiring whether they wish to renew the questions when the Senate resumes. Ministerial departments are advised to answer questions outstanding at prorogation. If the Senate were to meet after a prorogation (see below) a Notice Paper would be issued containing the business before the Senate at the prorogation.

Questions on notice submitted after the prorogation and for which answers have not been received before the Senate sits again appear on the first Notice Paper of the new session with the annotation that notice was given on the first sitting day. For such questions the 30 days, within which ministers must provide an answer or explain why none has been given, is deemed to begin with the first day of the new session.

Rules for questions and answers

The basic requirements of questions and answers were stated by President Laucke to be:

  • questions must relate to matters for which a minister is responsible
  • questions and answers should be brief
  • requests for statistical information should be placed on the Notice Paper and should not be sought on the floor of the chamber on any occasion
  • quoting should be avoided, except to the degree necessary to make a question clear
  • replies should be confined to giving information, and no debate should be entered into.[243]

The following rules for questions are contained in standing order 73:

Questions shall not contain:

  1. (a) statements of fact or names of persons unless they are strictly necessary to render the question intelligible and can be authenticated;
  2. (b) arguments;
  3. (c) inferences;
  4. (d) imputations;
  5. (e) epithets;
  6. (f) ironical expressions; or
  7. (g) hypothetical matter.

Questions shall not ask:

  1. (h) for an expression of opinion;
  2. (i) for a statement of the Government's policy; or
  3. (j) for legal opinion.

Questions shall not refer to:

  1. (k) debates in the current session; or
  2. (l) proceedings in committee not reported to the Senate.

Questions shall not anticipate discussion upon an order of the day or other matter which appears on the Notice Paper.

The President may direct that the language of a question be changed if it is not in conformity with the standing orders.

These rules apply also to answers. For example, if a question may not ask for a legal opinion, it follows that an answer may not give one.

The rule concerning anticipation is not interpreted narrowly because, if it were, it could block questions on a wide variety of subjects. The practice is to allow questions seeking information regarding matters on the Notice Paper but which do not necessarily amount to anticipating discussion.[244]

The rule that questions shall not refer to proceedings in committee which have not been reported to the Senate strictly refers to proceedings in committee of the whole, although the same principle has been applied to other committees. The prohibition, however, is not interpreted narrowly because, if it were, the rule might block questions on a wide variety of subjects under consideration by committees. The working rule is that senators should not be restricted from asking questions on subjects which may be under examination by a committee, provided that they do not refer to nonpublic committee proceedings which have not been reported to the Senate.[245] President Laucke stated:

The rules have never been so interpreted as to prevent from being answered a question about a particular area which may or may not have a direct bearing on an inquiry currently proceeding. Otherwise no questions could be asked in the Senate. An interpretation which is not too rigid has to be made in a situation like this.[246]

The conduct of members of either House should not be reflected on in a question.[247]

It is within the discretion of the President to direct that long and involved questions be placed on the Notice Paper.[248] See also the section on Questions involving orders for returns, below.

In applying the rule that a question shall not ask for a statement of government policy, in most cases the chair leaves it to the minister to say whether a question involves a statement of government policy. However, it has been ruled that it is in order for a question:

  • to seek an explanation of government policy;[249]
  • to ask a minister about the effects of a proposal on the minister's portfolio;[250]
  • to ask about the government's intentions and the reasons for those intentions;[251]
  • to seek clarification of a statement made by a minister.[252]

A question which invites a minister to comment on the policies or actions of non-government parties is out of order unless the question seeks an expression of the government's intentions in some matter of ministerial responsibility.[253]

On 16 February 1956, a senator asked a question without notice in which he made reference to the President of Indonesia and to the government of that country. President McMullin held that the remarks of the senator were not in order, and he ruled that, in the future, such questions must be expressed in terms of appropriate dignity and courtesy.[254] This ruling was consistent with the practice in the British House of Commons. On 19 March 1974 President Cormack disallowed a question without notice on the ground that questions may not be asked, or terms used in debate, which reflect on a head of state of a friendly country.[255] These rulings have no basis in the standing orders, have not been applied since that time, and do not reflect current practice.

The attachment of the names of persons to circumstances in questions, when only the circumstances need be mentioned, is not in accordance with the standing order.[256]

The President may direct that the language of a question be changed if it is not in conformity with the standing orders.[257]

With respect to questions on notice, the practice is as outlined to the Senate by President Givens on 25 September 1918: before questions are permitted to be placed upon the Notice Paper, they are examined by officers of the Senate, and anything which, in their opinion, is doubtful is referred to the President for decision.[258] The President may direct the Clerk to alter any question so as to conform with the standing orders. If a question contains material which does not conform to the standing orders current practice is for an officer of the Senate to discuss the matter with the senator who submitted it. The problem is usually resolved at this point by the rephrasing or withdrawal of the question.

A question which does not comply with the rules may not be placed on the Notice Paper.[259] On 10 April 1918, President Givens disallowed a proposed question upon notice by Senator McDougall because it contained statements and assertions and, in the opinion of the President, was not asked solely for the purpose of eliciting information. The President refused to allow the question to go on the Notice Paper. Soon after the meeting of the Senate, Senator McDougall moved dissent from the ruling of the President. The motion was negatived. During the debate, President Givens held that it was the duty of the President to protect the privileges of senators by preventing the asking of improper questions.[260]

On 11 May 1950 President Brown ruled that "it is not permissible to quote from newspapers, books or periodicals when asking questions".[261] During the debate on an unsuccessful motion of dissent from this ruling the President stated: "At the moment it is competent for an honourable senator to ask a question based upon a newspaper article, but not to read an extract from the newspaper".[262] On 15 May 1969 President McMullin re-affirmed that questions may be based on newspaper reports, but that quotations are not in order.[263] In 1971 President Cormack ruled:

I remind the Senate that it has been ruled on many occasions that, while questions may be based on newspaper or other reports, quotations are not in order. The purpose of questions is to obtain information. Questions should be brief so that as many as possible may be asked within the time allotted. I therefore reaffirm that Senators must frame their questions in such a way as not to contain quotations.[264]

In practice the chair exercises a discretion and may allow a senator to make a quotation to the extent necessary to make the question clear.

Senators may amend their questions on the Notice Paper to clarify their terms.[265]

Questions with or without notice are permissible only for the purpose of obtaining information, and answers are subject to the same limitation, that is, they are limited to supplying the information asked for by the questions.[266] Questions would not only be in conformity with the standing orders, but would be more effective and telling, if they were confined to properly framed questions, and did not contain statements, assertions, allegations, insinuations and other extraneous material.[267] In answering a question, a senator must not debate it.[268] Thus an answer should be confined to giving the information asked for, and should not contain any argument or comments. An answer must also be relevant to the question. On 22 August 1973 President Cormack ruled that in answering a question:

the Minister should confine himself to points contained in the question with such explanation only as will render the answer intelligible. In all cases the answer must be relevant to the question.[269]

However, should the Senate seek a full statement of a case, latitude is allowed to a minister in answering a question; but if it is desired to debate the matter, this should be done only on a specific motion.[270]

In relation to relevance, the Procedure Committee in 1994 observed as follows:

It is clear that, in answering a question, a minister must be relevant to the question. It is for the President to make a judgment whether an answer is relevant to a question. If the answer is not relevant, the President requires the minister to be relevant.[271]

Questions may be put to a minister relating to the public affairs with which the minister is officially connected, to proceedings pending in Parliament, or to any matter of administration for which the minister is responsible in a personal or representative capacity.[272] This is an overriding rule: that a question must seek information, or press for action within a minister's responsibility. The chair will disallow any question where it is clear that it is not within a minister's responsibility. On 18 March 1976, President Laucke ruled that questions must relate to matters within ministerial responsibility. He allowed a question to be put to a minister on the understanding that the minister might reply only in so far as he considered it his responsibility in any area covered by the question.[273] There are occasions, however, when it is difficult for the chair to decide whether a matter comes within ministerial responsibility; in such cases, according to President Young, "It is the right and responsibility of ministers in this chamber to decide who will answer questions and in whose area of responsibility a particular question lies".[274] It has been ruled that if no minister rises to answer a question it should be placed on the Notice Paper.[275]

While questions may be asked about ministers' conduct as ministers, questions relating only to the affairs of ministers' spouses or relatives are not in order.[276]

A minister may reply to a question relating to matters for which the minister is officially responsible in a personal or representative capacity[277] and replies must be confined to those areas of responsibility.[278] As has been noted, ministers must accept full personal responsibility for answers given on behalf of others, and ministers have been censured by the Senate on this basis.[279] It has been ruled that it is not in order for a minister "to comment on how a State public servant administers the affairs of a State department".[280] President Sibraa ruled that if the Chair cannot detect any Commonwealth responsibility in an answer it is out of order.[281]

It is not the responsibility of the chair to tell ministers how they should respond to questions: "That is purely a matter for Ministers, provided their answers are within the standing orders".[282] It is in order for a minister to answer part of a question without notice and ask that the remainder be placed on the Notice Paper.[283] During question time on 18 March 1980, a senator moved that so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent a minister from giving the Senate a complete answer to a question. President Laucke ruled[284] the motion not in order as at question time it was the prerogative of the minister to determine the manner in which he replied to a question. Later, and after question time had been concluded, a motion was proposed that so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the moving of a motion that the minister request the Prime Minister for real and complete answers to certain questions; the motion was negatived.

It is also not for the chair to determine whether an answer is correct.[285] Challenges to the accuracy of an answer should not take the form of a point of order.[286]

Questions may not be directed to, or answered by, a parliamentary secretary in that capacity.[287]

Declaration of interest

Neither the questioner nor a minister answering a question is required to declare an interest. Following a challenge to a minister to declare his interest in a matter on which he was providing an answer to a question without notice, President Sibraa ruled that senators do not need to declare an interest.[288]

Sub judice matters

For an analysis of the principles which apply to questions concerning sub judice matters, see Chapter 10, Debate, under Sub judice convention.

Questions concerning statutory authorities

As has been noted, one of the fundamental rules of questions is that a minister may be asked only about matters for which the minister is officially responsible. As statutory authorities frequently operate with considerable autonomy, the question arises of the extent to which a minister can be expected to answer questions of detail concerning their activities, especially in relation to those authorities operating commercially.[289] No ruling has been given from the chair, nor pronouncement of policy made by government, regarding questions relating to statutory authorities. It is now the practice for questions about such bodies to be directed to the relevant minister or the minister representing the relevant minister. The information sought is usually supplied.

For declarations by the Senate concerning accountability of statutory bodies, see above, under Statutory authorities and public interest immunity.

Questions concerning security matters

It has been the policy of successive governments that questions seeking information concerning the activities of the ASIO or the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) will not be answered. On 15 July 1975, in reply to a question on notice, the minister representing the Attorney-General stated that it is not the practice to give information relating to ASIO operations.[290] In the debate on the Supply Bill (No. 1) 197677, a minister stated that it was the practice of governments not to answer questions on the appropriation of funds for ASIO.[291] Officers of ASIO, however, now appear at estimates hearings and answer questions.

Questions involving orders for returns

It has been ruled that detailed information requiring considerable preparation should be sought by motion for a return under standing order 164, rather than by question upon notice.[292] The rationale for these rulings is that because an order for a return must be approved by the Senate this procedure enables the Senate to consider whether the cost of preparing the information is justified.

See also the material on unanswered questions on notice, above, and Chapter 18, Documents, under Orders for the production of documents.

Additional responses to questions without notice

It is established practice for ministers at the end of question time to make additional responses to questions without notice. They then provide orally, or by incorporation in Hansard, information which they were unable to provide at the time the question was asked. Supplementary questions are not permitted in relation to such answers.[293]

Motions to take note of answers

A motion may be moved without notice or leave at the conclusion of question time to take note of answers.[294] A motion may relate to one or more of any answers given that day and a senator may speak for not more than five minutes on it. The total time for debate on all such motions on any day must not exceed 30 minutes, not including any time taken in raising and determining any points of order during the debate.[295] Motions to take note of answers provide the Senate with an opportunity to debate answers which are regarded as unsatisfactory or which raise issues requiring debate.

A relevant amendment may be moved to a motion to take note of an answer, but an amendment to take note of a different answer is not a relevant amendment.[296]

The history of this procedure is as follows. During 1992 the Opposition began to make increasing use of the device of moving by leave after question time motions to take note of answers given by ministers. On 14 September 1992 an attempt was made by the government to limit the time spent on motions to take note of answers to questions, by making the granting of leave for moving such motions conditional on the senator seeking the leave speaking for only two minutes. This condition was refused, and leave to move a motion was refused, but this resulted in a motion to suspend standing orders, on which senators can speak for five minutes with a total time limit of 30 minutes. After one such suspension motion was disposed of, leave was granted to move three further motions to take note of answers.

On the following day, 15 September 1992, the Manager of Government Business moved a special motion to limit debate on motions to take note of answers to two minutes per speaker and a total of 30 minutes.[297] This motion was agreed to, with an amendment to extend the speaking time to four minutes, on 16 September 1992.[298] This motion was expressed to operate for the remainder of the week. It appeared to have had the effect of increasing the number of motions to take note of answers, three such motions being moved on 16 September and five on 17 September. These procedures were agreed to again for the two sitting weeks in October and the first two sitting weeks of November.[299] On 24 November 1992 the procedures, together with those concerning time limits to questions and answers at question time (see above) were renewed as sessional orders, and in February 1997 incorporated into the standing orders.[300]


202. SO 72(1).
203. SO 74.
204. SO 72(2).
205. Adopted 10/3/2009, J.1657-8.
206. Procedure Committee, Third report of 2008, PP No. 500/2008; 13/11/2008, J.1206; 4/12/2008, J.1421.
207. Procedure Committee, Fourth report of 2009, PP No. 320/2009, 25/11/2009, J.2872. See also Procedure Committee, Third report of 2010, PP No. 203/2010, adopted 28/10/2010, J.246; order extended 24/11/2011, J.1936. For debate on the application of the requirement for answers to be directly relevant, see SD, 17/11/2010, pp. 1409, 1487-1501.
208. SD, 26/8/1902, p. 15311 and 20/10/1905, p. 3858.
209. For rulings that ministers cannot be required to answer questions see SD, 26/8/1902, p. 15311; 1/6/1904, p. 1736; 20/10/1905, p. 3858; 22/5/1914, p. 1428; 16/7/1919, p. 10718; 1/10/1952, p. 2373; 2/6/1955, p. 592; 5/10/1961, p. 891; 10/9/1963, p. 372; 22/8/1973, p. 40; 19/10/1983, p. 1717; 3/11/1983, p. 2186; 6/12/1990, p. 5131.
210. The President had ruled that such a motion could not be moved without notice. This ruling, though undoubtedly correct, was dissented from by the Senate.
211. J.1193.
212. SD, 27/3/1973, p. 567.
213. SD, 17/5/1973, p. 1688.
214. 29/3/1973, J.82.
215. SD, p. 81.
216. SD, 22/3/1979, p. 879.
217. PP 50/1980.
218. 25/6/1992, J.2614-5.
219. 19/10/1999 J.1931-2.
220. PP 284/1995.
221. For attempts to change the allocation and specify it in an order of the Senate, see 5/3/2003, J.1539; 18/8/2011, J.1282.
222. Ruling of President Mattner, SD, 26/9/1951, p. 5.
223. SD, 24/10/1951, p. 1035; 3/5/1973, p. 1276.
224. SD, 9/10/1973, p. 1060; 13/12/1973, p. 2778; 6/3/1974, p. 51; 22/5/1979, p. 1895; 22/8/1979, p. 101; 6/5/1982, p. 1913.
225. 26/2/1981, J.109.
226. SD, p. 1633.
227. PP 50/1980.
228. SO 74(1).
229. SO 74(2).
230. SO 74(3).
231. SO 74(4).
232. SO 74(3).
233. SO 74(5).
234. J.952.
235. For example, 23/11/1988, J.1144; 28/11/1990, J.485; 21/2/1991, J.785; 14/3/1991, J.875; 17/4/1991, J.951; 16/6/1992, J.2443; 11/5/1995, J.3289; 12/8/1999, J.1489-90; 26/10/2009, J.2564-5; 12/5/2011, J.921.
236. 25/5/1989, J.1712.
237. Rulings and statement by President Reid, SD, 28/5/1998, pp. 3377-8.
238. See SD, 21/2/1991, p. 1034.
239. 17/4/1991, J.951-2.
240. SD, 2/12/1992, pp. 4044-8; 8/12/1992, pp. 4391-4; 2/12/1992, J.3190; 8/12/1992, J.3252; ruling of President Calvert, SD, 16/10/2003, p. 16629.
241. SD, 16/6/1992, pp. 3661-2, 3664-6.
242. See Chapter 16, Committees, under Estimates committees.
243. SD, 21/10/1976, p. 1370.
244. Statements by President Reid, SD, 24/6/1999, p. 6307; 20/6/2002, p. 2312; by President Calvert, SD, 17/10/2006, p. 36.
245. Rulings of President Laucke, SD, 26/8/1976, p. 354; of Deputy President West, 22/9/1999, p. 8654; of President Calvert, SD, 17/10/2006, p. 36.
246. SD, 26/8/1976, p. 354.
247. Rulings of President McMullin, SD, 12/11/1968, p. 1865; 25/8/1970, p. 154.
248. Rulings of President O'Byrne, SD, 11/6/1975, p. 2488; of President Laucke, 22/3/1979, p. 876.
249. SD, 5/12/1989, p. 3879.
250. SD, 4/10/1984, p. 1206.
251. SD, 30/3/1987, p. 1438.
252. 18/2/1991, J.755; SD, 18/2/1991, p. 690.
253. Rulings of President Sibraa, SD, 17/2/1987, p. 73; 30/3/1987, p. 1438; 17/5/1990, p. 554; 26/11/1991, p. 3296; of President Reid, SD, 9/9/1996, p. 3018; of President Calvert, SD, 10/9/2003, p. 14834; 1/3/2004, pp. 20291-2; 26/3/2007, pp. 34-5.
254. SD, p. 23.
255. SD, 19/3/1974, p. 361.
256. Statement by President Calvert, SD, 21/8/2002, p. 3467.
257. SO 73(3).
258. SD, p. 6300.
259. SD, 1/8/1917, p. 625; 10/4/1918, p. 3694; 26/6/1919, p. 10093; 16/7/1919, p. 10718.
260. SD, 10/4/1918, p. 3694-5.
261. SD, 11/5/1950, p. 2419.
262. p. 2587.
263. SD, p. 1270.
264. SD, 26/10/1971, p. 1444; see also SD, 27/10/1971, p. 1472; 25/11/1971, p. 21067; 28/9/1972, p. 1310.
265. Ruling of President Givens, SD, 28/9/1922, p. 2788.
266. Rulings of President Givens, SD, 17/5/1916, p. 7920; and of President Cormack, 1/3/1973, p. 90.
267. Statement by President Calvert, SD, 6/12/2004, pp. 36-7.
268. SO 73(4).
269. SD, p. 40.
270. Ruling of President Gould, SD, 10/12/1908, pp. 2985-6.
271. Second Report of 1994, PP 223/1994, p. 3; see also statement by President Beahan, SD, 23/10/1995, pp. 2249-50.
272. Ruling of President Sibraa, SD, 30/8/1988, pp. 466-7.
273. SD, 18/3/1976, p. 621.
274. SD, 12/11/1981, p. 2081.
275. SD, 2/12/1965, pp. 1979-80.
276. Statement by President Calvert, SD, 4/12/2002, p. 7154.
277. Ruling of President McClelland, SD, 19/2/1986, p. 603.
278. Rulings of Deputy President Hamer, SD, 3/10/1984, p. 1110; of President McClelland, 17/2/1986, p. 409; and of President Sibraa, 17/5/1990, p. 554.
279. 25/5/1989, J.1712; 10/5/1994, J.1641.
280. SD, 23/10/1986, p. 1812.
281. SD, 3/10/1989, p. 1590-1.
282. Ruling of President McClelland, SD, 11/9/1985, p. 449.
283. Ruling of President McMullin, SD, 15/10/1953, p. 559.
284. SD, 18/3/1980, p. 715.
285. SD, 27/9/1988, p. 758; 4/12/1991, p. 4111; 11/12/1991, p. 4615.
286. SD, 2/12/1991, p. 3742.
287. Order first adopted 3/9/1991, J.1455-6.
288. SD, 28/5/1992, pp. 2900-3; for declarations of interests in debate, see Chapter 10, Debate.
289. SD, 28/8/1968, p. 367; 30/3/1971, p. 604.
290. SD, 15/7/1975, p. 2733.
291. SD, 4/6/1976, pp. 2423.
292. SD, 7/7/1905, p. 140; 1/8/1930, p. 5109; 19/3/1931, p. 373; 15/5/1931, p. 1975; 28/7/1931, p. 4408.
293. See ruling of Deputy President West, 21/10/1999, J.1985.
294. SO 72(4).
295. See statements by President Beahan, SD, 1/3/1994, p. 1163; SD, 7/6/1995, p. 925.
296. Ruling of Deputy President West, SD, 24/3/1998, pp. 1152-3.
297. J.2760-1.
298. J.2775-7.
299. J.2817-9; J.2931.
300. 24/11/1992, J.3076.