Appendix 10

A Chronology of the Senate: 1901 – 2022

Date Event
1 January 1901 Australian Constitution came into force, vesting legislative power in a federal Parliament consisting of the Queen, a Senate, and a House of Representatives
February–March 1901 Writs issued for the election of 36 senators
29-30 March 1901 Senators elected at elections throughout Australia
9 May 1901

Opening of Parliament at the Melbourne Exhibition Building and swearing in of senators

First meetings of the Senate held in the chamber of the Legislative Council of Victoria

Election of the first President of the Senate, Senator Richard Baker

5 June 1901 Appointment of the first Senate committee: the Standing Orders Committee
June 1901

Senate had first supply bill amended to show items of expenditure

Senate changed second supply bill to reflect Australian rather than British constitutional arrangements

26 July 1901 First Senate select committee appointed: steamship communication with Tasmania
August 1901

First senior officials called to give evidence before a Senate committee, including the Clerk of the Senate and the Secretary of Defence

Private citizens also called to give evidence

1902 Senate first insisted on requests for amendments to a bill it could not amend
1902 Commonwealth Electoral Act passed, including the right of women to vote and stand for election
1 September 1903 Adoption of Senate Standing Orders
16 March 1904 Senate amended Acts Interpretation Bill to insert provision for disallowance of regulations
April 1904 First case of privilege investigated by a Senate committee
October 1904 First bill referred to a Senate standing committee
11 October 1906 Senate rejected Customs Tariff (British Preference) Amendment Bill 1906 and disagreed to Governor-General's amendment to Customs Tariff (British Preference) Bill 1906
1907 Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications inquired into election of Senator Vardon
1909 Senators' terms ceased on 30 June, rather than 31 December as previously, under constitutional amendment of 1907
13 December 1909 Private senator's bill, the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1908, extending employees' protection against dismissal, passed into law
30 July 1914 For the first time, the Senate and the House of Representatives dissolved simultaneously under section 57 of the Constitution
February–March 1917 Senate forced government to abandon proposal to extend the life of the House of Representatives by an act of the British Parliament
12–13 November 1918 Senator Gardiner presented a 12 hour address in the Senate on the Commonwealth Electoral Bill
1919 Preferential voting introduced for the Senate
15 August 1919 Time limits imposed on speeches in the Senate
December 1921 First (informal) conference held between the Senate and the House of Representatives
31 July 1924 Private senator's bill, the Commonwealth Electoral Bill, to provide compulsory voting, passed into law
9 May 1927 Senate met in Canberra for the first time
December 1929 Senate established a select committee to consider a system of standing committees
10 July 1930 First reference of a bill, the Central Reserve Bank Bill, to a select committee
August 1930 First formal conference held between the Senate and the House of Representatives
6 May 1931 Chairman of Commonwealth Bank called before the Senate to give evidence on economic crisis
11 March 1932 Regulations and Ordinances Committee established to scrutinise delegated legislation
1 July 1941 Voting between two candidates for Presidency of the Senate tied, and decided by lot
21 August 1943 Senator Dorothy Tangney first woman elected to the Senate
10 July 1946 Parliamentary proceedings first broadcast on ABC Radio
1949 Introduction of proportional representation for Senate elections
1950 From 30 June, the states represented by 10 senators each
19 March 1951 Second simultaneous dissolution under section 57 of the Constitution
9 May 1953 For the first time, a Senate election was held separately from that of the House of Representatives
27 September 1961 Senate adopted procedures to examine estimates before appropriation bills had passed the House of Representatives
1965 Compact of 1965 between the Senate and the government, on the content of appropriation bills
1966 Senator Annabelle Rankin first woman to administer a government department
5 April 1967 Select committees on container cargo and metric system appointed
19 May 1967 Senate first adopted procedures for recall of Senate at request of majority of senators
October 1967 Senate forced government to disclose documents relating to Air Force VIP squadron
1968 Senator Ivy Wedgwood first woman senator to chair a committee
11 June 1970

Standing committee system established

Estimates committees established

13 May 1971 Senate first found persons guilty of contempt, for unauthorised release of draft committee report
11 June 1971 First Aboriginal Senator, Neville Bonner, sworn in
9 December 1971 Senate declared that statutory authorities are accountable for all expenditures of public funds
14 March 1973 Senate required government to respond to Senate committee reports within three months
11 April 1974 Third simultaneous dissolution under section 57 of the Constitution
6 and 7 August 1974 Joint sitting convened to resolve a deadlock following simultaneous dissolution election
16 July 1975 Senior officials called before the Senate to investigate overseas loans affair; government claimed crown privilege
October–November 1975 Senate declined to pass appropriation bills, resulting in fourth simultaneous dissolution under section 57 of the Constitution
1975 Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory elected senators for the first time
1977 Section 15 of the Constitution, governing casual vacancies in the Senate, amended by referendum
1981 Select Committee on Parliament's Appropriations and Staffing recommended separation of parliamentary and government appropriations
19 November 1981 Establishment of the Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills
25 March 1982 Establishment of the Appropriations and Staffing Committee
4 February 1983 Fifth simultaneous dissolution under section 57 of the Constitution
22 October 1984

Senate first authorised publication of tabled documents out of sittings

Senate asserted its right to meet after dissolution of House of Representatives

1984–86 Senate conducted first inquiry under section 72 of the Constitution into allegations concerning a judge
1 December 1984 Senators increased to 12 for each state
1985 Group ticket (above the line) voting introduced for Senate elections
1985-86 Senate amended loan bills to ensure annual approval of government authority to borrow
1986 Senator Janine Haines the first woman to lead a parliamentary party
14 April 1986 Deadline for the receipt of government bills first adopted
1987 Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987 initiated in the Senate by the President and passed into law, to codify parliamentary immunities
5 June 1987 Sixth simultaneous dissolution under section 57 of the Constitution
October 1987 Senate forced abandonment of Australia Card Bill, which was the subject of the simultaneous dissolution
25 February 1988 Privilege resolutions passed by the Senate, codified the rights of witnesses at committee hearings and granted right of reply to persons referred to in debate
28 September 1988 30 day rule for questions on notice adopted
8 November 1988 Senate declared principles under which it would consider retrospective tax legislation
29 November 1988 Senate required government to explain any delay in proclaiming bills passed by Parliament
December 1988 Select Committee on Legislation Procedures recommends new procedures for referring bills to committees
21 November 1989 New Standing Orders adopted
5 December 1989 Selection of Bills Committee established to refer bills to committees
14 December 1989 Annual reports of departments and agencies referred to standing committees
31 May 1990 Televising Senate question time authorised
23 August 1990 Senate committees authorised to televise their proceedings
September 1992 Time limits on questions without notice and answers first adopted
1993 Senate committees reported on constitutional and other problems with government's major tax legislation, resulting in its restructuring
17 March 1994 Senators' Interests Committee established
24 August 1994

Standing committee system restructured to reflect composition of the Senate and share chairs

Estimates and standing committees amalgamated

Performance of government departments and agencies referred to standing committees

9 June 1995 Senate first divided a bill into two bills
30 May 1996 Senate required government departments to publish indexed lists of their files
20 August 1996 First territory and woman President of the Senate, Senator Margaret Reid, elected
2 December 1998 Reference of New Tax System bills simultaneously to a select committee and three standing committees
31 August 1999 Senate authorised publication of its proceedings live on the Internet
22 November 1999

Senate declared all questions going to operations or finances of departments and agencies relevant to estimates hearings

Procedures for urgent bills amended to ensure that non-government amendments are put

29 June 2000 Senate declared that it would not pass tariff increases to validate certain tariff proposals
20 June 2001 Senate required government departments and agencies to publish details of contracts on the Internet
2001-02 Senate resolved cases of seizure of documents under search warrant, to determine immunity from seizure
2002 Action against a senator by his party considered as a matter of privilege
19 March 2002 Senate censured a senator for an attack on a High Court justice
15 May 2003 Resolution calling for removal of Governor-General
12 August 2003 Customs and excise tariff bills deferred until documents produced
30 October 2003 Resolution declaring basis on which Senate would consider claims of commercial confidentiality
11 February 2004 Select committee established on a treaty, the free trade agreement between Australia and the United States
9 March 2005 Agreement with the government over the execution of search warrants in senators' premises tabled
1 July 2005 Howard government's absolute majority in the Senate comes into effect
21 October 2005 High Court judgment in Combet v Commonwealth placed responsibility on Parliament for ensuring that appropriations are properly expended
9 November 2005 Senate adopted procedures allowing any senator to take action in the Senate in relation to unanswered estimates questions on notice or orders for documents
14 August 2006 Standing committee structure changed to return to pre-1994 structure
24 June 2008 Senate made orders requiring information, in time for estimates hearings, on government grants and appointments
10 March 2009 Provision for questions to chairs of committees and private Senators abolished but practice formalised in respect of questions to the President
13 May 2009 2006 changes to standing committee structure reversed
13 May 2009 An order of the Senate sets out the process to be followed, and criteria to be taken into account, in the making of public interest immunity claims
25 November 2009 Modified rules for questions without notice adopted on a temporary basis. Answers required to be 'directly relevant' to the question.
22 June 2010 Resolution agreed to consolidating and reaffirming the Senate's views on ordinary annual services of the government
23 June 2010 Resolution agreed to supporting an Indigenous “Welcome to Country” ceremony before openings of Parliament
26 October 2010 Standing order 50 amended to include an acknowledgement to country at the commencement of each day's proceedings
22 November 2010 Resolution affirming the power of the Senate to order the production of documents
2011 Expanded opportunities for consideration of private senators' bills comes into effect
March 2012 Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights established following passage of Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011
20 June 2012 High Court's decision in Williams v Commonwealth results in legislation to validate expenditure on schools chaplains' and similar programs and provide a future funding mechanism using regulations
July 2012 Parliamentary Budget Office begins operation
27 November 2012 Terms of reference of Appropriations and Staffing Committee amended to allow joint meetings with a similar committee of the House of Representatives for oversight of administration and funding of parliamentary ICT.
2012 Judicial Misbehaviour and Incapacity (Parliamentary Commissions) Act 2012 provides for establishment of commissions to investigate allegations and advise the Houses before they consider resolutions under s. 72 of the Constitution
6 February 2013 Senate orders the production by the ATO Commissioner to the Economics References Committee of minerals resource rent tax revenue figures that the Taxation Administration Act 1953 explicitly prohibited the ATO from providing to the minister for tabling in Parliament under a rare provision limiting parliamentary privilege. The information is provided to and published by the committee
March 2013 A national apology is made to people affected by former policies on forced adoptions, in accordance with a recommendation of the Community Affairs References Committee in its report on the subject
5 April 2013 The Western Australian half-Senate election was held again after the High Court sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns declared the initial election void because of the loss of 1370 ballot papers
26 February 2014 House of Representatives purports to “admonish” a senator for conduct during a Senate estimates hearing
May 2014 Regulations and Ordinances Committee, at the request of the Appropriations and Staffing Committee, starts to draw the Senate's attention to post-Williams regulations authorising expenditure that would not appear to meet the Senate's tests for categorisation as ordinary annual services of the government
24 June 2014 2009 changes to questions without notice adopted permanently
25 June 2014

Changes to estimates procedures to strengthen the rights of the minority agreed to, including in relation to unanswered questions on notice, spill-over hearings and duration of questioning on programs

Senate agrees to a consolidated resolution on the accountability of officers and a resolution rejecting the existence of an FOI application as a reason for refusing to answer questions

15 July 2014 Changes agreed to standing order 24 to implement recommendations in the Scrutiny of Bills Committee's review of its future direction and operations
18 February 2015 A revised version of the Government Guidelines for Official Witnesses appearing before Parliamentary Committees, the first revision since 1989, is presented out of sitting following scrutiny of a draft by the Privileges Committee
14 May 2015 Long-standing Senate order for details of government contracts (the “Murray motion”) is amended following review by the Finance and Public Administration References Committee in the wake of the implementation of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013
23 June 2015 Procedure Committee reports on the issue of third party arbitration of public interest immunity claims on the NSW model. The committee concludes that, in the absence of all-party agreement, the NSW model is not amenable for adaptation for the Senate and that existing approaches (which may include third party arbitration as an option) are preferred
24 June 2015 Temporary orders relating to consideration of private senators' bills, streamlining of routine committee business, consideration of documents and committee reports adopted permanently to take effect on first sitting day in August
13 August 2015 Federal Court decision upholding the validity of certain Family Court fees regulations remade within 6 months of disallowance by the Senate with only a minor change in the quantum of fee increase. An appeal does not proceed. The remade regulations are also disallowed
18 March 2016 Amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 providing for optional preferential voting for the Senate both above and below the line passes the Senate
15 April 2016 Prorogation of Parliament for a new session for the first time since 1977
9 May 2016 Seventh simultaneous dissolution under section 57 of the Constitution
[updates to 31 July 2020]
23 December 2016 A senator becomes prima facie subject to disqualification under sections 44(iii) and 45 of the Constitution following the making of a sequestration order against his estate
3 February 2017 On referral from Senate, Court of Disputed Returns holds that a senator was convicted and subject to be sentenced for an offence punishable by imprisonment for one year or longer at the date of the 2016 election and that therefore the senator was incapable of being chosen by reason of section 44(ii) of the Constitution
5 April 2017 On referral from Senate, Court of Disputed Returns holds that a senator had an indirect pecuniary interest in an agreement with the Public Service of the Commonwealth and that therefore the senator was incapable of being chosen by reason of section 44(v) of the Constitution
Oct 2017 – May 2018 On referral from Senate, Court of Disputed Returns holds that eight senators had, at the time that they nominated for election, the status of subject or citizen of a foreign power and that therefore the senators were incapable of being chosen by reason of section 44(i) of the Constitution
22 November 2018 The power of a joint committee to summon witnesses and the validity of the Parliament’s contempt powers are affirmed in the High Court
14 February 2019 Amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 establishing a mandatory qualification checklist for candidates nominating for election pass the Senate
3 April 2019 A Register of Senators’ Qualifications is established
4 July 2019
Temporary order adopted requiring that motions to suspend standing orders moved during formal business be determined without debate
17 October 2019
The Senate resolves to suspend each year so senators can attend the annual ‘Closing the Gap’ statement in the House of Representatives, and amends standing order 35 to require that evidence heard by a Senate committee in an Indigenous Australian language is transcribed in Hansard in that language with an English translation.
27 November 2019
Regulations and Ordinances Committee renamed the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Delegated Legislation, with amended terms of reference, as recommended by the committee
3 December 2019
The Senate agrees to a trial of changes to the routine of business and reduced speaking times during debates
23 March 2020, 8 April 2020
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Senate agrees to orders allowing the President to alter the date and time of the next meeting and allowing the Senate to meet in a “manner and form not otherwise provided for in the standing orders”, with rules to be determined by the Procedure Committee: see Chapter 7, under Arrangements for extraordinary meetings
From March 2020
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Senate adopted procedural variations to enable senators to observe public health advice on hygiene and social distancing. Divisions were held and counted with the doors open and senators were authorised to vote from behind the banks of seats on the relevant side of the chamber. Committees of the whole were chaired from the President’s chair. Senators were authorised to speak from seats other than their own and (from May 2020) to occupy additional seats place around the perimeter of the chamber
23 March 2020
The Senate authorised committees to extend their own reporting dates where sittings might be infrequent due to COVID-19 pandemic (revoked 24 February 2021)
[update to 30 June 2021]
11 June 2020 50th anniversary of the modern Senate committee system. In marking the occasion, the President observes that Senate committees produced about 120 reports in the 69 years prior to the change and more than 5,500 reports since
[update to 31 July 2020]
18 June 2020
The Senate adopts a temporary order limiting the number of motions that can be considered under the formal business procedure to one per senator per week, with a maximum of four motions per day from government, opposition and crossbench senators respectively, with exceptions. The order also placed a limit of 200 words on motions, also with exceptions
[updates to 30 June 2021]
18 July 2020
Due to pandemic restrictions, President agrees to set aside a scheduled sitting fortnight, at the request of government and oppositions senators, without whom it would not have been possible to establish or maintain a quorum were sittings to proceed
24 August 2020
Senate adopts rules for remote participation in Senate proceedings recommended by the Procedure Committee in its first report of 2020, enabling senators to seek and receive the call by video or audio link
2 February 2021
Senate begins recording its divisions on tablet devices, and reporting the results in real time on the Dynamic Red and elsewhere on the aph website
15 June 2021
Senate refers to Privileges Committee allegations of improper interference with an inquiry into Australia’s sovereign naval shipbuilding capacity, centering on the refusal of the government to provide information sought by the committee and ordered by the Senate to be produced
16 June 2021
Senate adopts recommendations of the Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Delegated Legislation to restrain and rationalise exemptions from disallowance and expand the committee’s terms of reference
24 June 2021
Senate adopts a temporary order [update: made permanent on 2 December 2021] providing 30 minutes each day for 2 minute statements, removing the cap on general business notices agreed on 18 June 2020 and instead limiting the types of notices that may be taken as formal
19 October 2021  In response to the report of the Review of the Parliamentary Workplace: Responding to Serious Incidents, the Senate adopts a resolution noting the obligations of senators and their staff to comply with applicable work health and safety laws, and the establishment of an Independent Parliamentary Workplace Complaints Mechanism 
23 November 2021 Senate resolves that it will not countenance public interest immunity claims made on the grounds that information related to the National Cabinet (a body comprising the Prime Minister, Premiers and Chief Ministers) would reveal cabinet deliberations
24 November 2021  A new memorandum of understanding is struck between the Presiding Officers, the Attorney-General, and the Minister for Home Affairs on the execution of search warrants where parliamentary privilege might be involved, updating the 2005 MOU
8 February 2022  The Presiding Officers and party leaders make statements acknowledging the unacceptable history of workplace bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault recorded in the Independent Review into Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces and advising of initial actions to implement its recommendations
15 February 2022  Procedure Committee tables report on recording of pairs, endorsing additional transparency measures
31 March 2022  The Parliament receives an address from the President of Ukraine, His Excellency Volodymyr Zelenskyy amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, facilitated by video conference in the House of Representatives and attended by senators