House of Representatives Practice, 6th edition – HTML version

8 - Order of business and the sitting day

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Apart from ballots for the election of the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker and the Second Deputy Speaker,[460] the standing orders make provision for the taking of a ballot to elect a Member to a position or to perform a function—for example, to serve on a committee, statutory body or delegation—whenever the House thinks fit. However, the system has not been used for many years. Before the House proceeds to a ballot, the bells are to be rung for four minutes, as in a division.[461] The manner of taking a ballot, unless otherwise expressly provided, is also detailed.[462]

In 1905 the House agreed to appoint Members to a proposed select committee by ballot.[463] The ballot did not eventuate as the motion to appoint the committee was negatived.[464] On three occasions, in 1903, 1904 and 1908, the House resolved to hold open exhaustive ballots to determine the opinion of Members as to the site of the seat of government of the Commonwealth.[465] On each occasion the House agreed to specific resolutions determining the method of taking the ballot.

Consideration has been given to the possible use of secret ballots on certain conscience issues which were to be decided by free vote, but no such procedure has been proposed to the House.

460. See Ch. on ‘The Speaker, Deputy Speakers and officers’.
461. S.O. 136.
462. S.O. 137.
463. Members to serve on parliamentary committees are regularly elected by ballot in the party rooms.
464. VP 1905/135–6; H.R. Deb. (26.10.1905) 4169. The method of appointment of Members was agreed to pursuant to a standing order (no longer operative) which provided that, if six Members so required, a committee was to be appointed by ballot.
465. VP 1903/161–2; VP 1904/129; VP 1908/29–30. The 1904 ballot was to determine the opinion of Members as to the district in New South Wales in which the seat of government should be; the other two were for actual sites.