Messages between the two Houses may deal with:
- transmission of bills for concurrence, return of bills with or without amendment, and other proceedings in connection with the consideration of bills
- requests for the attendance of members or officers of the other House as witnesses to be examined by the House or committee
- appointment of joint committees, appointment of members of such committees, and changes in membership
- requests for conferences (see under Conferences, below)
- transmission of resolutions for concurrence.
A message from the Senate to the House of Representatives is in writing, is signed by the President or Deputy President, and is delivered by a clerk at the table or the Usher of the Black Rod.
If the House of Representatives is sitting, a message is delivered to the House and received by the Deputy Clerk or Sergeant-at-Arms. If the House is not sitting, the message is delivered to the Clerk of the House.
Most messages, for example messages with respect to proceedings on bills, pass automatically between the Houses, under provisions in the standing orders. A motion may be moved at any time without notice that any resolution of the Senate be communicated by message to the House of Representatives. This procedure is used where the agreement of the House to a resolution is sought, or it is thought appropriate to advise the House of a resolution of the Senate.
A motion that a resolution of the Senate be communicated by message to the House may be moved by any senator, and not necessarily the senator who moved the motion for the resolution.
A message from the House of Representatives is received, if the Senate is sitting, by a clerk at the table, and if the Senate is not sitting, by the Clerk of the Senate, and is reported by the President as early as convenient, and a future time is normally fixed for its consideration; or it may, by leave, be dealt with at once.
A message is reported to the Senate by the President at any stage when other business is not before the Senate. By convention, however, a message from the House concerning government business is handed to the President by the Clerk when a minister indicates that the government is ready for the message to be reported.
The general rule, that when a message has been reported a future time is fixed for its consideration, and it may be dealt with at once only by leave, does not apply to messages with respect to bills, for which special provision is made.
An unusual situation arose in 1912, when a motion for fixing the time for consideration of a message from the House of Representatives was negatived. The message requested the concurrence of the Senate in a resolution agreed to by the House favouring the formation of two new states out of the territory known as Northern and Central Queensland. Motion was made that the message be taken into consideration on the next day of sitting, but the motion was negatived. As the Senate did not further sit during that session, the message was not again brought up. The effect of the Senate’s action was that it declined to consider the message. On many occasions the Senate has not returned to the consideration of a message when a future time (usually the next day of sitting) has been fixed for its consideration, because the order of the day for consideration of the message has not been reached.