156 Request for conference
Conferences sought by the Senate with the House of Representatives shall be requested by message.
In requesting a conference, the message from the Senate shall state, in general terms, the object for which the conference is sought and the number of managers proposed to serve, which shall be not less than 5.
A conference shall not be requested by the Senate on the subject of a bill or motion of which the House of Representatives is at the time of the request in possession.
Adopted: 19 August 1903 as SOs 328, 329 and 333 (corresponding to paragraphs (1) to (3)) but renumbered as SOs 324, 325 and 329 for first printed edition
1989 revision: Old SOs 338, 339 and 343 combined into one, structured as three paragraphs and renumbered as SO 156; some modernisation of language
Examples of ministerial undertakings given to senators in exchange for their suppost for particular lagislation. Negotiations such as these have effectively replaced the need for conferences between the Houses
Formal conferences have occurred twice since Federation and an informal conference has also been held. Conferences have also been requested or mooted on other occasions but have not proceeded. Although these standing orders have been rarely used, the occasion may arise where the procedures provide an appropriate mechanism for resolving an issue between the Houses and they remain part of the standing orders of both Houses.
President Baker took a dim view of their utility (see SO 162) but there is no doubt that these standing orders would have been regarded as an essential part of the standard requirement for a range of communication methods between the Houses in a bicameral system.
In practice, the possible subjects on which the Houses might confer are limited. It is unlikely that a conference would ever again be held on a bill because of the common practice for senators to negotiate directly with ministers on bills and, if necessary, for those negotiations to be reflected in the terms of the resolutions of each House. In these circumstances, conferences are unnecessary.
For commentary on the use and interpretation of the conference provisions, see Odgers’ Australian Senate Practice, 12th edition, pp.541 –44.