The standing orders of both the House and Senate provide for the holding of conferences between the two Houses.[127] Grounds for conferences are not restricted to resolving disagreements between the Houses over legislation, but to date formal conferences of delegates or managers representing the two Houses have been used only for this purpose.[128] Only two such conferences have ever been held,[129] and it seems unlikely that a formal conference would be used to resolve disagreements between the Houses in contemporary political circumstances. Resolution of disagreements over legislation is more likely to be achieved behind the scenes by Ministers negotiating directly with parties represented in the Senate and individual Senators.

Unofficial conference

In 1921 an unofficial committee[130] of three Members of each House (also referred to as representatives of the two Houses ‘in conference’) considered an amendment requested by the Senate to the Appropriation Bill 1921–22. The amendment would have reduced a salary increase for the Clerk of the House so as to maintain parity with the Clerk of the Senate. The committee recommended that there should be uniformity in salaries of the chief officers in the Senate and the House of Representatives, and that in the future preparation of the estimates this uniformity should be observed. The House endorsed the recommendations and gave the necessary authority to Mr Speaker to carry them into effect. In view of this the Senate did not press its request for amendment.[131]