Chapter 11 - Questions seeking information

73    Rules for questions

  1. The following rules shall apply to questions:

    questions shall not contain:

    1. statements of fact or names of persons unless they are strictly necessary to render the question intelligible and can be authenticated;

    2. arguments;

    3. inferences;

    4. imputations;

    5. epithets;

    6. ironical expressions; or

    7. hypothetical matter;

    questions shall not ask:

    1. for an expression of opinion;

    2. for a statement of the government’s policy; or

    3. for legal opinion;

    questions shall not refer to:

    1. debates in the current session; or

    2. proceedings in committee not reported to the Senate.

  2. Questions shall not anticipate discussion upon an order of the day or other matter which appears on the Notice Paper.

  3. The President may direct that the language of a question be changed if it is not in conformity with the standing orders.

  4. In answering a question, a senator shall not debate it.

Amendment history

Adopted: 19 August 1903 as SOs 94 (corresponding to paragraphs (1) to (3)) and 95 (corresponding to paragraph (4))

Amended: 2 December 1965, J.427 (to take effect 1 January 1966) (restructuring of general rules into multiple paragraphs and incorporation of several rulings of the President; President’s authority to amend questions brought into line with the authority to amend notices of motion)

1989 revision: Old SOs 99 and 100 combined into one, restructured as four paragraphs and renumbered as SO 73; language simplified


During the initial debates on the standing orders, the rules for questions (and answers) were agreed to without debate. The original language of the rules was taken from the South Australian and Victorian legislative assemblies. Over the years, the rules were supplemented by rulings of the President. For instance, President Baker ruled that questions ought to be used to obtain information, rather than asking for opinions[1] and President Gould ruled that questions on notice should be asked without explanatory statements.[2] As early as the 1930s, these rulings had been circulated, for the information of senators, on the back of the printed pro forma for submitting questions to the Clerk.[3] In the 1960s, the Standing Orders Committee recommended that the standing order be amended to incorporate these rulings.[4]

The committee, at the same time, recommended that the President’s authority in paragraph (3) to amend the language of questions to ensure conformity with standing orders, be brought into line with a similar authority in SO 76.