This note provides advice on Senate proceedings affecting departments and agencies following the dissolution of both Houses under section 57 of the Constitution with effect from 9am on 9 May 2016.
The dissolution brings to an end all proceedings of the Senate and its committees, as well as all joint committees on which senators serve.
Business is affected as follows.
- There can be no presentation of documents to the President out-of-sitting under standing order 166 until the new Senate meets and new presiding officers are chosen (because the offices of President and Deputy President are vacated at the dissolution, except for the purpose of the exercising of any powers or functions under a law of the Commonwealth, as authorised by sections 6 and 7 of the Parliamentary Presiding Officers Act 1965).
- Documents required to be tabled pursuant to statute (including disallowable instruments) may continue to be provided to the Clerk in the usual way, and will be stockpiled for tabling in the new Parliament.
- All temporary orders, such as those setting future meeting schedules, cease to operate.
- Orders of continuing effect, including orders for the production of documents, carry over into the new Parliament. Returns may continue to be provided to the Clerk in the usual way, and will be stockpiled for tabling in the new Parliament.
- Similarly, resolutions of continuing effect carry over, including such resolutions as the requirement for government responses to be provided to Senate committee reports within three months of their presentation to the Senate.
- All business on the Notice Paper lapses but may be restored or reintroduced in the new Parliament in the usual way.
- All unanswered questions on notice lapse but may be resubmitted in the new Parliament. Senators cannot place new questions on notice between the dissolution and the date of the election, but re-elected senators may place questions on notice thereafter. These questions will appear in the first Notice Paper in the new Parliament (published for the second day of meeting) and the clock on the 30 day rule runs from that date. (For estimates questions, see below).
- Although the requirement to answer questions on notice lapses with the questions, replies may continue to be received (because they are received under the standing orders by the Clerk, rather than the Senate), but not published (because publication of an answer is effected by supplying a copy to the senator who sought it). Any answers so received by the Clerk will be provided to senators on their re-election and then published online.
- Senate committees cease to exist and may therefore not meet after the dissolution until re-appointed in the new Parliament. Their inquiries also cease unless, and until, resurrected in the new Parliament, including by their successor committees recommending this action and the Senate adopting the recommendation. Their records pass into the custody of the Senate.
- Unanswered estimates questions on notice also lapse but may be the subject of future orders by the Senate (for example, orders for the production of answers to questions taken on notice at previous estimates hearings by particular legislation committees). Although the requirement to provide answers to questions taken on notice at committee hearings lapses at the dissolution, any answers so provided will be held by the secretariat to be dealt with by successor committees (if any).
- The time for giving notices of motion to disallow legislative instruments continues to run from one Parliament into the next. So, for example, for an instrument tabled on the last day of sitting before the dissolution there will still be 15 sitting days in the next Parliament to give notice of a motion to disallow it. Instruments which are the subject of unresolved disallowance motions at the dissolution are deemed to be tabled on the first sitting day of the new Parliament, so that the time for giving notice of motion to disallow them begins afresh.
Any queries concerning these or related matters may be directed to the relevant office:
Table Office (tabling of documents, questions on notice) 02 6277 3010
Committee Office (estimates questions, committee inquiries) 02 6277 3555
Black Rod’s Office (opening of new Parliament) 02 6277 3396
Clerk’s Office (any other matters) 02 6277 3350