committee reports to the Senate on the following matters.
Hours of meeting and routine of business
committee noted the work of a procedural working group comprising senators
representing the parties and the crossbench, dealing with nominated elements of
the routine of business. Following consideration by the working group, the
committee agreed to recommend changes to the hours of meeting and routine of
business, as follows:
provide for 5-minute speeches, rather than 10-minute speeches, on
the Wednesday adjournment, so that more senators may participate
remove the option for 20-minute speeches on the Tuesday
require that speakers’ names for the Tuesday adjournment be provided
to the Government Whips’ Office by 5pm, but that this be a matter of practice
not codified in the standing orders, and that senators may nevertheless speak
if the need arises
provide for an earlier start to sittings on Tuesday (noon,
instead of 12.30pm), in line with the House of Representatives
move consideration of private senators’ bills from Thursday
morning to Monday morning.
committee agreed that the proposed changes should take effect from the next
sitting week until 30 June 2018, and would be reviewed by the committee before
The committee recommends that the Senate
adopt the proposed amendments to the standing orders in Appendix 1, and that
the changes take effect as temporary orders from the next sitting week until 30
The committee also considered, but did not reach
agreement on, proposals from the working group to change arrangements for
motions to take note of answers, under standing order 72(4). The committee
notes that crossbench senators continue to be concerned about current
opportunities to contribute to debate on such motions.
Tracking public interest immunity claims
The committee noted that there has been some improvement in
adherence to guidance in the committee’s second report of 2015 about practices
which should be followed in making public interest immunity claims.
However, the committee also noted that rates of compliance
with orders were reasonably low and considered that there may be scope for
compliance efforts to be sharpened by an order of continuing effect requiring
governments to report to the Senate every 6 months on orders that remain on the
the committee recommends that the Senate adopt an order of continuing
effect in the following terms:
Report on outstanding orders for documents
(1) That there be laid on the table by the Leader of
the Government in the Senate, not later than 2 calendar months after the last
day of each financial year and calendar year, a list showing details of all
orders for the production of documents made during the current Parliament which
have not been complied with in full, together with a statement indicating
whether resistance to them is maintained and why, and detailing any changing
circumstances that might allow reconsideration of earlier refusals.
(2) This order is of continuing effect.
Absence of a senator during a vote due to misadventure
The committee considered a letter from Senator Reynolds,
referred by the then President, requesting that it review the circumstances of
a senator’s absence for a vote on 11 May 2017, and a request on the next day of
sitting (13 June) that the vote be taken again. The committee endorsed a
background note about ‘misadventure’, the circumstances of the particular
matter, and options for rescinding and revisiting votes. The note is published
at Appendix 2.
Mode of dress and a possible ‘time out’ rule
committee considered matters referred to the committee by then President Parry on
4 September 2017, and the possible ‘time out’ rule for the Senate attached to
the referral (Appendix 3). The committee noted that, President Parry had indicated
that he would not support introduction of the ‘time out’ rule unless there was
broad support for it. Committee members indicated that there was not broad
support for the proposal, and the committee resolved that the proposed time out
rule should not progress.
question of the need to implement an order relating to the dress of senators,
the committee agreed that existing rules were sufficient and that current
practice (which leaves choice of dress to the good judgement of senators)
should continue. The committee agreed to incorporate in its report the
exhortation to senators in the last part of President Parry’s statement to the
Senate on 4 September 2017, namely:
I again reiterate that the mode of dress is a matter for all
senators but would ask that the respect and dignity of the Senate is forefront
in the minds of each and every one of us when making such decisions.
Parliamentary Code for respecting cultural diversity and proposal to amend
standing order 193—Rules of debate
committee considered the two matters referred by the Senate on 6 September 2017
(Appendix 4) but did not agree to adopting the proposed code as an order of the
Senate, and did not agree to the amendments proposed to standing order 193.
Senator Sue Lines
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