Standing orders provisions

The termination of a sitting is known as the adjournment. With certain exceptions the House can only be adjourned by its own resolution following either a motion moved by a Minister[228] or the Speaker automatically proposing the question ‘That the House do now adjourn’ pursuant to standing order 31. Matters irrelevant to the question may be debated, thus providing a valued opportunity for private Members to raise matters of concern to them.[229] For discussion of the ‘adjournment debate’ see Chapter on ‘Non-government business’.

The Speaker may adjourn the House to the next sitting without putting the question under the following circumstances:

  • lack of a quorum (S.O. 57); and
  • grave disorder[230] (S.O. 95).

A further exception relates to the situation when the House is informed by the Clerk of the absence of the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker and Second Deputy Speaker. If the House does not proceed immediately to elect a Member to perform the duties of the Speaker, the House stands adjourned until the next sitting.[231]

Motion moved by a Minister

The motion ‘That the House do now adjourn’ can be moved only by a Minister (or Parliamentary Secretary) and no amendment can be moved to it.[232] The motion cannot be moved while another question is before the Chair.[233] The motion may be debated without limitation of time, subject to the closure (which, during this debate, may be moved only by a Minister[234]) and the automatic adjournment provisions. Debate on the motion cannot be adjourned.

As with other motions the reply of the mover closes the debate.[235] The mover has again addressed the House, by leave, without closing the debate.[236] After the mover has spoken in reply, individual Members have addressed the House, by leave,[237] and standing orders have been suspended to enable the debate to continue.[238] Also, during the course of the debate, the mover has made a statement, by leave, and later has spoken in reply.[239]

The motion for the adjournment has been withdrawn, by leave, to allow the presentation of a committee report,[240] and to allow a motion for the alteration of the hour of next meeting to be moved.[241] In 1959 the motion was moved immediately after questions without notice and debated while the House awaited certain legislation from the Senate. When the legislation had not arrived some four hours later, the motion was withdrawn, by leave, and a motion granting leave of absence to all Members and a special adjournment motion were agreed to. A further adjournment motion was then moved and agreed to.[242] In a similar situation in more recent years the adjournment was moved early and debated for some time after standing orders had been suspended, by leave, to enable Members to speak for a specified period (one period of 10 minutes each). This motion was then negatived on the receipt of awaited Senate messages. After consideration of the legislation concerned a second adjournment motion was moved and agreed to.[243]

Automatic adjournment

Standing order 31 provides that at the time set by standing order 29 for the adjournment to be proposed (that is, from September 2016, 7.30 pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays and 4.30 pm on Thursdays), the Speaker shall propose the question ‘That the House do now adjourn’. The question is open to debate but no amendment can be moved to it.

Other provisions relating to the automatic adjournment are:

  • If a division is in progress at the time fixed for interruption, that division and any division consequent on that division[244] are completed and the result announced.
  • If, on the question ‘That the House do now adjourn’ being proposed, a Minister requires the question to be put immediately without debate, the Speaker puts the question immediately. This provision provides the House with an opportunity to negative the adjournment in order to continue with the business before the House.[245]
  • If the question ‘That the House do now adjourn’ is negatived, the House resumes its proceedings at the point at which they were interrupted.
  • The business under discussion and not disposed of at the time of the automatic adjournment is set down on the Notice Paper for the next sitting.

The question has arisen of the situation of a Member who is making a statement, by leave, at the time of interruption. Leave of the House does not over-ride the provision in the standing orders for the automatic adjournment, and the adjournment motion must be proposed at the specified time. If the motion is negatived, the Member can then continue his or her remarks,[246] but not otherwise.[247] The same applies if standing orders are suspended to enable a Member to make a statement. Unless standing order 31 has been specifically suspended, the statement is interrupted at the specified time and the Member is only able to continue if the adjournment motion is negatived. A Member raising a matter of privilege at the time of interruption has been in a similar situation—his speech was interrupted and then resumed on the adjournment question being put immediately and negatived.[248]

The making of a statement by leave or a Member speaking to a matter of public importance do not fall within the meaning of business under standing order 31. As there is no question before the House, these items cannot be set down on the Notice Paper for the next sitting.

If a motion, such as a motion to suspend standing orders, is being moved, or has been moved but has not yet been seconded (where necessary) at the time of interruption, the question has not been proposed from the Chair. If the adjournment is not negatived at this point, the motion is not in the possession of the House, and it is therefore dropped and cannot appear on the Notice Paper (see ‘Motion dropped’ in Chapter on ‘Motions’).

Standing and sessional orders have been suspended, by leave, to enable the debate to extend beyond the normal time,[249] or to or for a specified time.[250]

Adjournment of the House

If, at the time set by standing order 29 for the House to adjourn (that is, from September 2016, 8 pm on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and 5 pm on Thursdays) the question before the House is ‘That the House do now adjourn’, or if debate concludes prior to this time, the Speaker immediately adjourns the House until the time of its next meeting.

Before the Speaker adjourns the House, a Minister may ask for the debate to be extended for 10 minutes to enable Ministers to speak in reply to matters raised during the debate; after 10 minutes, or if debate concludes earlier, the Speaker immediately adjourns the House until the time of its next meeting. This does not prevent a Minister from replying earlier in the debate, provided that no other Member rises to obtain the call.[251] If a Minister starts to reply earlier, at the time of the automatic adjournment he or she may then ask for the debate to be extended.

If all the business of the day is concluded before the time at which the question to adjourn would be automatically proposed, the adjournment motion is moved by a Minister immediately. Debate may continue until the provisions of standing order 31, relating to the extension of the debate by a Minister or the immediate adjournment of the House, apply.

Special arrangements may provide that the House stand adjourned at a specified point in proceedings—for example, at the conclusion of the Leader of the Opposition’s speech in reply to the Budget.[252]

If the adjournment motion or question is negatived when first proposed and the business of the day concludes after the time specified for the adjournment of the House, a Minister moves the adjournment motion at the conclusion of ordinary business and debate may ensue without any limitation of time. If business does conclude before the time specified for the adjournment, the time available for the adjournment debate is reduced.

When the question ‘That the House do now adjourn’ has been agreed to, or when the time for debate has expired or the debate ceases, the sitting formally concludes and the Speaker adjourns the House until the time of its next meeting, either in accordance with standing order 29 or a resolution of the House agreed to under standing order 30.

On 29 August 2004, under the authority of the then standing order permitting the Speaker to fix an alternative day or hour of meeting when the House has adjourned for a routine two week break, the Speaker fixed ‘the ringing of the bells’ as the time for the next meeting, instead of the regular time of 12.30 pm the following day, 30 August. This action was in response to a request from the Prime Minister, who had advised the Speaker that the Governor-General had accepted his recommendation that Parliament be prorogued and the House dissolved on 31 August. Members were advised of the Speaker’s decision, the prorogation and dissolution proceeded as stated and the sittings did not resume.

The Speaker has been prevented from formally announcing the time of next meeting by the disorderly conduct of a Member.[253] Until such time as the Speaker leaves the Chamber he or she is still in charge of the House and in control of proceedings.[254]

Adjournment of the House for special reasons

The House has adjourned as a mark of respect on the death of a Prime Minister,[255] a former Prime Minister,[256] a reigning Monarch,[257] a Queen,[258] the Governor-General,[259] a former Speaker,[260] and others.[261] The House has also adjourned following the giving of a notice of a no confidence motion, the last occasion being in 1947.[262] On four occasions the Chair has adjourned the House until the next sitting when grave disorder has occurred.[263]