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House of Representatives Practice, 6th edition – HTML version

8 - Order of business and the sitting day

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Meeting of the House

The standing orders,[94] often amended by sessional order, fix the times at which the House shall meet for the despatch of business, unless otherwise ordered. The timetable adopted in 2010 provided that the House would meet as follows:

Monday, at 10 a.m.
Tuesday, at 2 p.m.
Wednesday, at 9 a.m.
Thursday, at 9 a.m.

It is not uncommon for the days and hours of meeting to be changed by the House, especially towards the end of sitting periods.[95] At the rising of the House at the conclusion of each sitting, the Chair states the day and hour of the next meeting.

Preliminaries to meeting—the Daily Program

Except for the first sitting day of a session, a Notice Paper setting out the order of business to be followed is prepared under the authority of the Clerk of the House and issued prior to each sitting of the House.[96] The order of government business as it appears on the Notice Paper is determined by the Leader of the House on the evening prior to each issue of the Notice Paper, and the Table Office is informed accordingly.

The Department of the House of Representatives also issues a Daily Program[97] under the authority of the Clerk of the House. This is issued for each calendar day on which the House sits, rather than for each sitting. The Daily Program is compiled by the Table Office using information provided by the Leader of the House, the Manager of Opposition Business, Ministers, whips and other Members who have business to bring forward and reflecting Selection Committee determinations in respect of private Members’ and committee business. While the Notice Paper lists all unresolved business before the House, including questions in writing, the Daily Program shows only those items of business which the House is expected to deal with on that particular day. This can include business which is not on the Notice Paper—for example, certain types of bills or motions which are permitted to be introduced or moved without notice. If variations are expected from the order of business shown on the Notice Paper, the Daily Program indicates the procedural motions necessary to enable these variations to be made. The Daily Program shows the expected sequence of items of business, but not the timing of the commencement of each item, as this is uncertain in most cases. If the Federation Chamber is sitting on that day, an attachment to the Daily Program lists the proposed Federation Chamber order of business. Another attachment gives details of public hearings of House and joint committees.

Unlike the Notice Paper the Daily Program is not a formal document and it does not fix the order of business or limit the scope of business.[98] It serves as a useful guide to Ministers and Members in planning their day’s work in relation to the business of the House.

Meetings at hour other than pursuant to adjournment

When a delay or other change in the time of the next meeting is foreseen, the House alters the hour of meeting by resolution.[99] When the House is not sitting the Speaker may set an alternative day or hour for the next meeting, and must notify each Member of any change.[100]

In earlier Parliaments the Speaker did not have such power to vary the meeting times unless authorised by special adjournment resolution. Past cases of the House meeting at a time other than that specified pursuant to adjournment, including occasions not authorised by resolution of the House and occasions of changes by the Speaker in accordance with special adjournment resolutions, are described in previous editions.[101] A common factor is that in such matters Speakers have had regard to the wishes of the Government.

Meeting when House has not adjourned the previous sitting

On the evening of 16 August 1923, the Government having been twice defeated on the motion ‘That the House do now adjourn’, the Leader of the Opposition moved ‘That Mr Speaker do now leave the Chair’. During the division on that question the Speaker, in reply to a question as to when he would resume the Chair if he left it, replied that he would resume at 11 a.m. the next day. The motion was agreed to and the Speaker left the Chair.[102] The House met at 11 a.m. the next day, and a Notice Paper had been issued. After Prayers the Leader of the Opposition contended that the proceedings were irregular as the House had not adjourned the previous evening and the sitting should have resumed from where it had left off. The Speaker ruled that, it being the day fixed by sessional order for the meeting of the House, he had taken the Chair according to the terms of the standing order which provided that ‘The Chair shall be taken by the Speaker at the time appointed on every day fixed for the meeting of the House’.


94. S.O. 29.
95. S.O. 30; see Ch. on ‘The parliamentary calendar’.
96. For a full description of the Notice Paper see Ch. on ‘Documents’.
97. The Daily Program was first produced in 1950 and is also commonly known as the ‘Blue Program’ because of its distinctive colour.
98. For example, bills may be introduced although not listed on the program—e.g. tax bills on 26 May 2008, VP 2008–10/266.
99. See ‘Days and hours of meeting’ in Ch. on ‘The parliamentary calendar’.
100. S.O. 30. See also Ch. on ‘The parliamentary calendar’, and ‘Discretionary powers’ in the Ch. on ‘The Speaker, Deputy Speaker and officers’.
101. See 4th edn, pp. 245–6.
102. VP 1923–24/156–7; H.R. Deb. (16.8.1923) 2938–40.