There are time limits for debate applying to each stage of a bill before the Senate. There are four opportunities for a senator to speak to a bill.
First reading: A senator may only debate the first reading of a bill if it is non-amendable under section 53 of the Constitution, and a time limit of 15 minutes applies. For all other bills, the first reading is not debatable.
Second reading: This stage of a debate is about the policy and principle of a bill, and each speaker has a time limit of 20 minutes.
Committee of the whole: During this stage the bill is considered in detail and a senator may speak for up to 15 minutes on any number of occasions. This enables a dialogue to develop between the minister responsible for the bill and other senators who may have amendments to or questions about the bill.
Third reading: This is the final opportunity for debating the bill and carries a time limit of 20 minutes per speaker.
Debate on non-controversial bills usually takes a minimal amount of time. Lengthy debates are frequently historical debates. The following pages show details of bills considered by the Senate for longer than 5 hours, with a detailed breakdown of how much time was spent on each stage.
39th Parliament — 10 November 1998 to 27 September 2001
40th Parliament — 12 February 2002 to 30 August 2004
41st Parliament — 16 November 2004 to 17 October 2007
42nd Parliament — 12 February 2008 to 19 July 2010
43rd Parliament — 28 September 2010 to 29 November 2012