Standing Committee on Procedure
From Hansard, 18 November 1996, page 6917
Mr ANDREW (Wakefield) (12.32 p.m.)On behalf of the Parliamentary
Standing Committee on Procedure, I present the committee's report, incorporating
a dissenting report, entitled Report on the conduct of divisions,
together with the minutes of proceedings and evidence received by the
Ordered that the report be printed.
Mr ANDREWThis Procedure Committee report deals with the
mechanisms the House uses to record members' votes on the questions put
before itan issue about which many members have quite strong opinions.
I intend to speak for only four of the 10 minutes allotted by the Selection
Committee for discussion of this report today, although the issues it
covers really need more time than that. I will be brief because the chairman,
the honourable member for Moncrieff (Mrs Sullivan), wishes to extend to
the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Martin) the courtesy of the opportunity
to speak on behalf of the minority report signatories focusing on the
question of electronic voting.
Secondly, one of the report's unanimous recommendations has implications
for the House's Independent members in particular. Therefore, the chairman
believed that at least one of them should also have the opportunity to
comment today. The committee supports that course of action. The honourable
member for Cunningham has indicated that he, too, will limit his speaking
time to four minutes for this latter reason.
Both the average number of divisions per day and the time required to
conduct and tally each division have been much greater this year than
at any time since 1975, the average for 1996 being approximately 40 minutes
per day in divisions. The committee's recommendations aim to streamline
division procedures, but without diminishing any member's right to both
call for a vote and place his or her vote on the public record.
It is a matter for regret that the issue of electronic voting has resulted
in a minority report. I emphasise that the majority view is not one of
rejection of electronic voting. However, the reality is that present budgetary
constraints make it unlikely that funding for its installationestimated
in 1993 as $2 million over three yearswould be available. In any
event, selection and commissioning of an electronic voting system would
take considerable time, which would not assist the House and those of
its members who believe that quick action should be taken now to reform
the present somewhat cumbersome procedures.
The committee has recommended two main changes to our division procedures.
Both proposals already operate effectively in other Australian parliaments.
Their implementation by sessional order would allow the House to trial
Under the first proposal, members' votes would be recorded while division
bells are still ringing, the tellers having been appointed immediately
a division is called. The tellers for the ayes and the noes would stand
on opposite sides of the Members' Hall entrance to the chamber. After
registering their vote with the appropriate tellers, members would sit
on the side of the House which corresponds to their vote. Most members'
votes could be recorded before the doors are locked.
The committee has also recommended that the bells be rung for five minutes
instead of four as at present. Under the above procedure, that is unlikely
to add to the total division time. For consecutive divisionsthat
is, those for which the bells are rung for one minuteonly those
members who either did not vote in the immediately preceding division
or wish to vote differently in the new division would need to report to
Our second proposal expands the provisions for recording dissent by allowing
a division to be cancelled after the bells have been rung if there are
eight or fewer members in the minority. The number and names of members
in the minority would be automatically recorded but not the details of
the members in the majority. The right of any two members to call a division
and to have their vote on the public record would not be diminished. However,
this procedure would save at least some of the excessive time presently
required to conduct the count in those divisions in which nearly all members
wish to vote on one side.
The Procedure Committee is confident that these recommendations, if adopted,
will improve the efficiency of the division process. I hope that before
the House adjourns for the summer recess more time will be available for
members to properly debate this report, which I present on behalf of the
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