House of Representatives Practice, 6th edition – HTML version

16 - Non-government business

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Private Members’ Mondays

Order of business on Mondays

Time is reserved on each sitting Monday for non-government business as follows:

In the House
Petitions[4] (from 10 a.m. for up to 10 minutes)
Committee and delegation business and private Members’ business (to 12 noon, and from 8 p.m. to 9.30 p.m.);[5]
In the Federation Chamber
Committee and delegation business and private Members’ business (from 11 a.m. to approximately 1.30 p.m., and from 6.30 p.m. to 9 p.m.)
Grievance debate (at 9 p.m. for one hour).[6]

There are no longer separate periods for committee business and private Members’ business. The amount of time available for the latter depends on the amount of committee business. This practice allows greater flexibility to accommodate the flow of committee report presentation, which is necessarily low at the beginning of a Parliament and tends to peak towards the end. Since the introduction of the modern form of private Members’ business in 1988, only in the most unusual circumstances has other business been given priority at the time for private Members’ business—and this has always been by agreement, not merely by government decision.[7] Sometimes, when the House has not met on a Monday of a sitting week, special arrangements have been made to enable some or all of the items normally dealt with on a Monday to be considered later.[8]

Selection and programming of business—role of the Selection Committee

The timetable for committee and delegation reports and private Members’ business on Mondays, in the House and in the Federation Chamber, is the responsibility of the Selection Committee, which determines the order of consideration of matters, and the times allotted for debate on each item and for each Member speaking. The committee also recommends items of private Members’ business to be voted upon (see page 794).[9]

The Selection Committee usually meets twice each sitting week. At its Tuesday meeting the committee mainly considers committee and delegation business and private Members’ business. At its Wednesday meeting the committee mainly considers government bills for referral to committees. If necessary the committee also meets on other days.

The Selection Committee reports its determinations regarding private Members’ and committee business to the House in time for them to be adopted and published on the Notice Paper of the sitting Thursday before the Monday being considered. The report is treated as adopted by the House on presentation and is printed in Hansard.[10]

The standing orders oblige the Selection Committee to give notices by private Members of their intention to present bills priority over other notices and orders of the day.[11] In other matters relating to their selection and programming of private Members’ business the following general principles have been adopted by the House:

  1. In formulating the priority to be given to items of private Members’ business the Selection Committee shall have regard to:
  2. the importance of the subject;
  3. the current level of interest in the subject;
  4. the extent of the current discussion on the subject both in the Parliament and elsewhere;
  5. the extent to which the subject comes within the responsibility of the Commonwealth Parliament;
  6. (the probability of the subject being brought before the House by other means within a reasonable time; and
  7. whether the subject is the same, or substantially the same, as another item of business which has been debated or on which the House has already made a decision in the same period of sittings and, if so, whether new circumstances exist.
  1. The Committee shall accord priority to private Members’ business:
with regard to the numbers of Members affiliated with each party in the House; in a way which ensures that a particular Member or the Members who comprise the Opposition Executive do not predominate as the movers of the items selected; in a way which seeks to ensure balance is achieved over each period of sittings; in a manner that ensures appropriate participation by non-aligned Members.
  1. When a private Member has the responsibility for the carriage of a bill transmitted from the Senate for concurrence, the bill shall be accorded priority following the question for the second reading being put to the House in the same way as a private Member’s bill originating in the House is accorded priority by standing order 41.
  2. Priority shall not be accorded to any item of private Members’ business if the matter should be dealt with by the House in another, more appropriate, form of proceeding.
  3. The general principles set out above shall be observed by the Selection Committee but nothing in the general principles shall be taken to prevent the Selection Committee departing from those general principles in order to meet circumstances, which, in its opinion, are unusual or special.
  4. These general principles shall continue in effect until altered by the House following a report from this or a future Selection Committee.[12]

Referral of business listed for the Federation Chamber

Items of business considered in the Federation Chamber must first be referred by the House. As the period for consideration of committee and delegation business and private Members’ business in the Federation Chamber overlaps the equivalent period in the House, it is not always possible to refer items of business in the usual way—that is, introduction in the House by the Member concerned, adjournment of debate and motion of referral. The procedure introduced to bypass this difficulty operates as follows:

Matters selected by the Selection Committee for debate in the Federation Chamber are presented together by the Speaker earlier on the Monday.

  • If the Speaker presents a report the following steps are deemed to have occurred—a motion to take note of the report, debate on the motion to be adjourned to a later hour and the order of the day to be referred to the Federation Chamber for further consideration within any parameters determined by the Selection Committee.[13]
  • If the Speaker presents a private Member’s bill, the first reading of the bill is deemed to stand referred to the Federation Chamber.[14]
  • If the Speaker presents a copy of the terms of a private Member’s motion, the following steps are deemed to have occurred—the motion is deemed to have been moved and debate on the motion adjourned to a later hour and the order of the day referred to the Federation Chamber for further consideration in accordance with any parameters determined by the Selection Committee.[15]

Later that day the items of business are called on in the Federation Chamber as orders of the day.

4. Presentation of petitions and any Petitions Committee report—see ‘Petitions’ in the Chapter on ‘Documents’.
5. S.O. 34.
6. S.O. 192.
7. VP 1993–95/25–6; VP 1996–98/43; VP 1998–2001/55, 59 (priority to Address in Reply, Selection Committee not having met to select private Members’ business). VP 1993–95/2181–2 (motion on French nuclear testing). VP 1996–98/239 (motion on helicopter crash, part of private Members’ time only). An order of the Court of Disputed Returns has been presented before presentation of committee and delegation reports—this action was taken because of the importance to the House of the subject matter and only took a very short time, VP 1998–2001/ 717. VP 1998–2001/1531 (death of sitting Member). VP 1998–2001/2595–6 (terrorist attacks in the USA). VP 2002–04/191 (Death of former Prime Minister). Any attempt to take unilateral action to displace the usual order of business has been opposed, e.g. VP 1998–2001/2547.
8. E.g. VP 1993–95/1769, 1777; 1996–98/375, 563; VP 2008–10/1235.
9. S.O. 222. In the 42nd Parliament a Selection Committee was not established and its functions were managed by the Whips (former S.O. 41a). On being re-established in the 43rd Parliament the committee was given additional functions in regard to government bills—i.e. to set speaking times for second reading debates (although by July 2012 it had not yet done so) and select bills for referral to a committee—see Chapter on ‘Legislation’.
10. S.O. 222(e). Selection Committee determinations adopted may be varied by order of the House, e.g. VP 2010–12/1252–3.
11. S.O. 41(b).
12. H.R. Deb. (21.10.2010) 1158–9.
13. S.O. 39(e).
14. S.O. 41(d).
15. S.O. 41(g).