Chapter 20 - Bills

138  Amendments proposed by the Governor-General

  1. When the Governor-General returns a bill recommending amendments, the amendments shall be considered and dealt with in the same manner as amendments proposed by the House of Representatives.
  2. When the Senate has agreed to an amendment proposed by the Governor-General, with or without amendment, the amendment, together with any alterations necessary to be made in the bill in consequence of the amendment, shall be forwarded to the House of Representatives for its concurrence; and any amendment made by the House of Representatives shall be dealt with in the same manner as amendments made by the House of Representatives on bills originated in the Senate.
  3. Amendments recommended by the Governor-General in bills originated in the House of Representatives, which have been agreed to by the House of Representatives and forwarded for the concurrence of the Senate, shall be proceeded with in the same manner as amendments made by the House of Representatives on the Senate’s amendments to bills first received from the House of Representatives.
  4. When amendments recommended by the Governor-General in a bill originated in the Senate have been agreed to by both Houses with or without amendment, the bill shall be printed and presented by the President to the Governor-General, having been certified accordingly.
  5. If any such amendment is disagreed to by the Senate, or if no agreement between the Houses is reached, the President shall again present to the Governor-General for assent the bill in the form as first presented for that purpose.

Amendment history

Adopted: 19 August 1903 as SOs 238, 239 and 240 (corresponding to paragraphs (1) to (3)) and SO 241 (corresponding to paragraphs (4) and (5)) but renumbered as SOs 236–39 for the first printed edition

1989 revision: Old SOs 247 to 250 combined into one, restructured as five paragraphs and renumbered as SO 138; language modernised and expression streamlined


Section 58 of the Constitution allows the Governor-General to return a bill to the House in which it originated and to recommend amendments which are then dealt with by the Houses. The standing order provides, somewhat elaborately, for the various permutations that may ensue:

  • If the originating House agrees to the recommended amendment (with or without amendment), the amendment is transmitted to the other House with any consequential alterations.
  • Amendments on House-originated bills, agreed to by the House, are dealt with by the Senate in the same way that House amendments to Senate amendments on House bills are dealt with (see SOs 132–34).
  • If both Houses agree to recommended amendments on a Senate bill, the bill as amended is then presented by the President for assent.
  • If the Senate does not agree to a recommended amendment on a Senate bill or if the Houses cannot reach agreement, the bill is presented for assent by the President in its original form.

The Constitution places no limits on the scope of the amendments that the Governor-General may recommend and nor does the standing order. When the measure was debated in 1903, Senator Symon (FT, SA) argued passionately for limits to be placed on the Governor-General (in other words, on the executive government), to confine the power to formal or verbal changes and to rule out any amendments affecting the principle or substance of the bill. Amendments of this scope, he argued, should be the subject of a fresh legislative process. He moved an amendment to this effect but withdrew it when it was pointed out that, as the Senate had the power to reject the recommended amendments, there were already sufficient safeguards and each recommendation could therefore be treated on its merits.[1]

Amendments of this kind are extremely rare. For precedents, see Australian Senate Practice, 6th edition, p.522–23 and Odgers’ Australian Senate Practice, 12th edition, p.262. The 1938 MS contains forms of the various messages that may ensue between the Governor-General and the Houses.