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Odgers' Australian Senate Practice Thirteenth Edition

Chapter 21 - Relations with the House of Representatives

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In a bicameral system the conduct of relations between the two houses of the legislature is of considerable significance, particularly as the houses must reach full agreement on proposed legislation before it can go forward into law, and action on other matters also depends on the houses coming to agreement.

In practice, under the system of government as it has developed in Australia, relations between the two Houses are relations between the Senate and the executive government, as the latter, through its control of a disciplined party majority, usually controls the House of Representatives. This chapter could well have been combined with Chapter 19, Relations with the Executive Government. There is value, however, in treating the matter on the basis of the constitutional assumption of dealings between two representative assemblies, as this pattern may in certain circumstances, for example, a government in a minority in the House, reassert itself.1

The Constitution contains some provisions regulating relations between the Houses:

  • section 53 provides some rules relating to proceedings on legislation
  • section 57 provides for the resolution of certain disagreements between the Houses in relation to proposed legislation by simultaneous dissolutions of the Houses.

The rules contained in section 53 are dealt with in Chapter 12, Legislation, and Chapter 13, Financial Legislation. Simultaneous dissolutions under section 57 are dealt with in this chapter.

The standing orders of the Senate provide more detailed rules for the conduct of relations between the Houses, particularly in relation to legislation. In so far as these rules regulate relations between the Houses generally, they are also dealt with in this chapter, and in so far as they relate to legislation they are dealt with in more detail in chapters 12 and 13.

Communications between the two Houses

Messages

Conferences

Simultaneous dissolutions of the Houses

Joint sittings of the Houses

Reform of section 57

Disagreement between the Houses