Chapter 9 - Times of sittings and routine of business

56    Conduct of business

A motion connected with the conduct of the business of the Senate may be moved by a minister at any time without notice.

Amendment history

Adopted: 19 August 1903 as SO 65 but renumbered as SO 61 for the first printed edition

1989 revision: Old SO 65 renumbered as SO 56; minor updating of terminology (for example, “Minister of the Crown” became “Minister”)


Senator James Drake

Senator james Drake (Prot, Qld) (Source: National Library of Australia)

Standing order 56 was a formulation of the informal practice applying in South Australia.[1] The Standing Orders Committee had proposed a more restrictive form of this rule but an amendment moved at the time of adoption left it in a form that has applied without further amendment since 1903:

Senator DRAKE – It is admitted that Ministers should have the right to arrange the order of their own business on all days, and therefore it is necessary to remove the first two lines of the standing order. I move – That the following words be omitted:– “On days upon which by sessional order Government business takes precedence of other business”.[2]

This standing order gives ministers the flexibility to move motions that are necessary for the conduct of the business of the Senate without having to give notice of them. It is a power available exclusively to ministers to facilitate business[3] and was, at the time, a new concept, not found in any of the standing orders studied by the Standing Orders Committee. It allows business that is before the Senate to be rearranged and would cover any motion to specify the order in which the Senate deals with such business, or any motion to postpone any business (including consideration of a bill in committee of the whole). It allows a minister who has already spoken in a debate to move the adjournment of that debate or the closure on the question before the Senate (see SOs 199 and 201). It also allows a minister to move that the sitting of the Senate be suspended.

It does not allow a motion to bring on for debate some completely new business that is not before the Senate, or to dispense with a category of business that is required by standing or other order to be dealt with at a particular time or in a particular sequence (although it would allow a motion to postpone such business to a particular time later in the day). Once a category of business has been commenced, SO 56 allows a minister to move that the business not be further proceeded with (but not so as to interrupt another senator speaking, and not before adjourning the particular business before the chair). Motions that are not within the scope of SO 56 require notice, leave or the suspension of standing orders.

The 1938 MS noted that the phrase “at any time” was subject to the provision now in SO 197(1) that no senator shall interrupt another while speaking.

A motion that the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till a particular day, by custom and practice, may be moved by ministers without leave.[4] Motions of this kind were rendered virtually obsolete by resolutions setting out a calendar of sitting days for the future; they were revived in 2008 when it was thought that the government may wish to take advantage of the provision allowing the President to recall the Senate at the request of the government (see SO 55).[5]