House of Representatives Practice, 6th edition – HTML version

16 - Non-government business

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As a means of analysing how the time of the House is occupied the following categorisation may be used:

Government business—government sponsored legislation and motions, and ministerial statements.

Business of the House—petitions, Question Time, presentation of documents, privilege matters, personal explanations, motions to refer business to the Federation Chamber and the presentation of reports from the Federation Chamber, messages from the Governor-General and the Senate, dissent motions, announcements of ministerial arrangements, motions to appoint committees, statements and debate on committee and parliamentary delegation reports, motions for addresses, motions of condolence, motions for leave of absence and special adjournment motions.

Private Members’ business—bills and motions sponsored by private Members.

Other opportunities for private Members—adjournment and grievance debates, Members’ statements, discussion of matters of public importance, and debate on the Address in Reply.

Most of the time of the House is occupied in the consideration of government business,1 a situation which is common to most Westminster-style Parliaments. At the time of Federation a Government’s right to reserve a significant part of the time of the House for its own purposes had, from necessity, already become established. The increasing need for Governments to control House time, assisted by the growth of strong party loyalty, led to a steady curtailment of opportunities for private Members to initiate bills and motions, and procedures to expedite the consideration of government business.2 Private Members frequently objected to the limits placed on opportunities to raise matters in the House, and to encroachments on their relatively few opportunities to have issues of their own choosing debated.3 The procedures for private Members’ business introduced in 1988 ameliorated this situation.

The private Member has the opportunity, provided by the standing orders, to participate in all House activity, including government business and business of the House. The rights of the private Member have long been preserved in respect of lodging a petition, the giving of a notice and the asking of questions. Other procedures which permit private Members to raise and draw attention to issues which they consider to be important are the adjournment debate, grievance debate, Members’ statements, discussion of matters of public importance and debate on the Address in Reply. Members also have an opportunity to raise matters of their own choosing during debate on the second reading of the main appropriation and supply bills and, subject to the relevancy rule, in the consideration of the proposed expenditures of government departments. While these opportunities are important to private Members, none of them enables a Member to initiate debate on a topic of his or her own choice in a form which could enable a distinct vote of the House on it, or to initiate legislative proposals. The private Members’ business procedures provide such opportunities.

Private Members’ Mondays

Committee and Delegation Business

Private Members’ business

Grievance debate

Members’ 90 second statements

Constituency statements

Adjournment debate

Matters of public importance