Questions to Chairs of Committees
The President referred to the committee the discussion which
took place in the Senate on 28 August following a ruling on a question to
a chair of a committee.
Standing order 72, in addition to providing for questions to
ministers at question time, contains provisions for questions to other senators
about business of which those senators have charge on the Notice Paper, and
questions to chairs of committees.
The first provision, in paragraph (1) of standing order 72,
has been in the standing orders since they were first adopted in 1903, and was
designed to allow senators to ask other senators about the progress of their
bills and other business they had initiated. The provision for questions to
chairs of committees is in paragraph (2) of standing order 72, and was adopted
in 1975 after a practice of putting questions to chairs had developed to allow
senators to ask committees about the progress of their inquiries. Questions to
chairs may be put only on notice or by leave; these restrictions were designed
to safeguard a further restriction that chairs must answer only on behalf of their
These provisions have seldom been used in modern times, and
on the rare occasions when they are used, they are not used for their original
Question time is now an occasion for questions to ministers.
The committee believes that the Senate should consider amending the standing
orders to reflect that primary purpose of question time, and to abolish the
provisions for questions to other senators and to chairs of committees. The
committee suggests that the Senate adopt this change as a temporary order until
the end of 2008, after which the committee will review the change to ascertain
whether it has caused any inconvenience to the Senate or senators, before
recommending whether it should be adopted as a permanent change.
Attachment 3 shows the necessary amendments of the standing
order, and the committee recommends that the amended standing order be adopted
as a temporary order until the end of 2008.
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