Chapter 8 - Sittings, quorum and adjournment of the Senate

53    Adjournment of Senate

  1. Except where the standing orders provide for the President to adjourn the Senate without putting a question, the Senate can be adjourned only by its own resolution.

  2. The adjournment of the Senate may be moved at any time by or on behalf of a minister.

  3. The motion for the adjournment of the Senate may not be amended.

  4. On the question for the adjournment of the Senate matters not relevant to the question may be debated.

Amendment history

Adopted: 19 August 1903 as SOs 58 and 58A (the latter renumbered as SO 59 for the first printed edition) (corresponding to paragraphs (1), (2) and (4))


  • 6 December 1905, J.211 (enabling debate on matters not relevant to the motion)
  • 2 December 1965, J.121 (to take effect 1 January 1966) (drafting change to sentence structure)

1989 revision: Old SOs 61 and 63 combined into one, structured as three paragraphs and renumbered as SO 53; paragraph (3) added to reflect Presidential rulings


On 18 June 1903 the Senate debated proposed SO 421 which listed certain motions, including the motion “That the Senate do now adjourn”, that were not open to debate. Like a great many of the proposed standing orders, it was based on those of the South Australian Legislative Assembly. Senator Neild (FT, NSW) moved that the paragraph pertaining to the adjournment of the Senate be omitted from the standing order, citing that in the majority of British legislatures, including in several Australian states, members were permitted to raise any matter they felt deserving of attention on the motion for the adjournment. President Baker, defending the standing order as proposed, took the view that senators who needed to catch trains to their home states would be inconvenienced by a debate on the adjournment, and that other opportunities for such debate could be utilised, including questions, consideration of money bills and the provision under SO 75 for a senator to move for an adjournment of the Senate until an unusual hour for the purpose of debating a matter of urgency. Nonetheless, the amendment was passed and SO 421, as amended, was agreed to.[1]

On 11 September 1903, however, when Senator Higgs attempted to raise a matter on the motion “That the Senate do now adjourn”, President Baker ruled that the motion was subject to the usual rules of debate relating to relevance.[2]

A motion declaring the Senate’s opinion that its members should be permitted to debate questions not relevant to the motion for the adjournment was debated and agreed to, by a majority of 2 votes, on 7 October 1903.[3]

The Standing Orders Committee presented a report to the Senate on 22 November 1905,[4] recommending a new standing order in lieu of original SO 59 to give effect to the above resolution. A motion to adopt the report was agreed to on 6 December 1905.[5]

Although the motion for the adjournment of the Senate could be debated, it was not a motion that could be amended.[6] When the standing orders were revised in 1989, paragraph (3) was added to make explicit an implicit procedural rule expounded by President Baker, on the grounds that the motion could not sensibly be amended.[7]