Chapter 13 - Notices of Motion

76    Giving of notices

  1. Notice of motion may be given by a senator stating its terms to the Senate and delivering at the table a copy of the notice, or by delivering the copy only. A copy of a notice shall be legible, signed by the senator and show the day proposed for moving the motion.
  2. If a notice of motion is given which contains matters not relevant to each other, the President may instruct the Clerk to divide the notice into 2 or more notices.
  3. Notices shall be entered by the Clerk on the Notice Paper in the order in which they are delivered at the table.
  4. A senator may, on request, give notice for any other senator not then present, and 2 or more senators may place their names on a notice as movers.
  5. A notice of motion shall not be given after the Senate has proceeded to the business of the day, except by leave of the Senate.
  6. A senator giving notice of motion in general terms shall deliver at the table a copy of the complete motion at least one day prior to that for which the notice has been given.
  7. A notice shall consist of a clear and succinct proposed resolution or order of the Senate relating to matters within the competence of the Senate, and shall not contain statements, quotations or other matter not strictly necessary to make the proposed resolution or order intelligible.
  8. The President may delete extraneous matter from notices and may require a senator giving a notice contrary to the standing orders to reframe the notice.
  9. A senator may not give 2 notices of motion consecutively, if another senator has a notice to give.
  10. No notice or contingent notice shall have effect for the day on which it is given.

Amendment history

Adopted: 19 August 1903 as SOs 98 to 101 (corresponding to paragraphs (1) to (4)), 104 (corresponding to paragraph (6)), 105 (corresponding to paragraph (5)), and 106 to 108 (corresponding to paragraphs (8) to (10))


  • 11 June 1914, J.79–80 (change in terminology in paragraph (1) to prevent a notice being ruled out of order on a technicality if the notice was either printed or typed instead of handwritten)
  • 23 August 1990, J.237 (deletion of old paragraph (7) and addition of new paragraphs (7) and (8) dealing with the content of a notice and the use of extraneous matter)
  • [29 April 1999, J.815; re-adopted 30 June 1999, J.1396, as a sessional order (amendment to paragraph (1) to streamline the process for giving notices by allowing them to be handed to the Clerk at the table in lieu of being read out in the chamber)]
  • 30 November 1999, J.2143 (to take effect 1 January 2000) (incorporation of sessional order amending paragraph (1))

1989 revision: Old SOs 104 to 107, and 110 to 114 combined into one, structured as nine paragraphs and renumbered as SO 76; language modernised and expression streamlined


Handwritten notice of motion

A notice of motion may be handwritten or typed, provided that it is legible and signed by the senator giving the notice

Most business in the Senate is transacted by way of motions, most of which require notice to be given in advance. Notices of motion are “statements of intention by senators that they intend to move particular motions on particular days indicated by the notices”.[1] Standing order 76 contains rules for the giving of such notices. For further analysis, see Odgers’ Australian Senate Practice, 12th edition, chapter 9.

When these original standing orders were adopted in 1903, only paragraph (5) was the subject of any debate. President Baker noted that that “a practice has grown up of leave being given to Senators to give notice after business has been called on”. Unsure whether this method of handling notices of motion was a “good practice” or whether “standing orders ought not to be suspended” instead, he felt in future that it would be his “duty not to allow any one to give notice after business has been called on unless the standing orders are suspended”. For the sake of clarity, Senator McGregor (ALP, SA) proposed an amendment to include the words, “unless by leave of the Senate”, and the standing order was agreed to in amended form.[2] The same dilemma also attached to the issue of whether motions otherwise requiring notice could be moved by leave instead, and this matter was clarified in the 1989 revision (see SOs 79 and 88).

In its original form, paragraph (1) required a notice to be “fairly written”. On 10 June 1914 the Standing Orders Committee tabled a report suggesting that the words “printed or typed” be inserted after “written”.[3] During consideration of the report on the following day, the amendment was agreed to.[4] President Givens explained that it was necessary to prevent a notice being ruled out of order on a technicality if it was either printed or typed instead of being fairly written.[5] This level of prescription survived the 1989 revision and remained operative until changes adopted in 1999 replaced these options with a simple requirement for a copy of a notice to be “legible”.[6]

Although notices of motion had always been used for expressions of opinion as well as for procedural matters, the proliferation of lengthy notices of motion on policy matters, particularly on broadcast days, led to concerns being expressed about the length of time being taken by senators to give notices, at the expense of other business. On 20 November 1986, the Standing Orders Committee tabled its Fourth Report, recommending for consideration that, in order to expedite proceedings, “[n]otices of motion … be treated in the same way as petitions, i.e. to be handed in to the Clerk, who would read a summary of the notices of motion lodged”.[7] Attached to the report was a proposed sessional order which would give effect to this proposal.

Consideration of the report began on 24 February 1987 but the proposed sessional order was not reached.[8] The order of the day for the further consideration of the report lapsed at the simultaneous dissolution of the Houses in 1987.

The issue arose again in 1989 when the President referred it to the Procedure Committee (formerly the Standing Orders Committee) following discussion of a notice of motion given by Senator Walters (Lib, Tas) on 1 June 1989 which contained numerous quotations.[9] The committee inquired into whether “statements, quotations and arguments” should be included in the text of a motion or should be “regarded as more appropriate for debate”. The committee observed that the purpose of a notice of motion was to propose a resolution or order of the Senate and although “no standing order or other explicit rule of the Senate … limits the length of notices of motion or prohibits the inclusion … of statements, quotations and arguments”, notices should nonetheless be “succinct and framed so as to express with as much clarity as possible the distinct opinion or decision of the House concerned”. In framing its recommendation, the committee considered that the “standing orders should proscribe extraneous matter in notices, and empower the President to remove such extraneous matter and to require a Senator to reframe an offending notice”.[10] The report was tabled on 15 June 1989[11] but not considered till after the March 1990 election. In the meantime, the revised standing orders had come into effect and the proposed amendment of paragraph (7) was adjusted on the floor accordingly when the report was finally considered and adopted on 23 August 1990.[12] Current paragraphs (7) and (8) resulted.

During debate it was pointed out that the amendment had “weaknesses” in that it involved “value judgments to be made first of all by those who draw up notices of motion and then there is a duty on behalf of the President to occasionally cleanse them of extraneous matter”. The amendment was seen as a means of exerting discipline, requiring on one hand for senators to be self-disciplined in raising matters which are within the competence of the Senate while on the other hand the President was to “be given the opportunity to discipline senators in respect of how they express their views in notices of motion”. Opposition senators argued for the corollary of ministers being subjected to greater discipline by the President in their answering of questions.[13] Irrespective of these reservations, the amendment was agreed to and has operated subsequently without the heavy-handedness in its application that might impinge upon the rights of senators to express their views.

The time being taken up in the giving of notices continued to exercise the minds of Senate ministers keen to maximise the time available for government business. Then Manager of Government Business in the Senate, Senator Ian Campbell (Lib, WA), gave notice of a motion on 10 December 1998 to refer various matters in relation to the procedures for the giving of notices to the Procedure Committee. However on the next sitting day he withdrew the notice and instead asked the committee to consider the same matter, taking into account the time taken in giving notices.[14]

The Procedure Committee tabled its First Report of 1999 on 24 March 1999. The committee had considered ways of streamlining the process for giving notices “without infringing the rights of senators” and recommended that “senators have the option of delivering notices in written form to the table rather than reading them out”. The committee also recommended that the procedure be trialled as a sessional order until the end of June 1999 before being adopted as an amendment to paragraph (1).[15] A temporary order was adopted on 29 April 1999 with effect till 30 June 1999; renewed as a sessional order on 30 June 1999 with effect till 31 December 1999; and finally adopted, without debate, as a standing order on 30 November 1999 with effect from 1 January 2000.[16]

From a practical point of view, the Senate has adapted to the fact that most notices of motion are now not given orally and are therefore not heard. Party leaders, whips and independent senators are provided with unedited copies of all notices of motion given on any day in order to prepare for the next day’s sitting. Notices edited in accordance with paragraphs (7) and (8) are published in the Notice Paper for the next sitting day.