Following on from last week’s Valentine’s special on love notes, this week we’re exploring what happens when the honeymoon wears off and the Houses have a disagreement. Luckily, the standing orders set out the rules for managing (and hopefully resolving) disagreements.
The most common type of disagreement between the Houses is when one House disagrees with the amendments to one of its bills made by the other House. When the Houses disagree, messages can pass between them either insisting or not insisting on amendments or proposing amendments to amendments. In fact there is no limit to the number of times the Houses can message each other – although the process is not intended to merely express disagreement, but instead to negotiate agreement between the two Houses.
In the unusual event that an agreement cannot be reached, the Council can request a conference of representatives from the two Houses (which is a topic deserving of its own post in our series).
The first scenario is where the Legislative Assembly sends a message indicating that it disagrees with the amendments to one of its bills made in the Council (the message can also say that it would accept all or some of the Council amendments provided they themselves were amended as indicated by the Assembly). The Council can either consider the message immediately or it will set a later time.
When it considers the Assembly message, the Council may decide to insist or not insist on its amendments, make new amendments, propose alternative amendments, agree to the Assembly amendments with its own amendments, or order that the bill be laid aside.
The debate is strictly confined to the contents of the Assembly message – while alternative amendments directly arising from the disagreement can be proposed, new amendments to other parts of the bill cannot be introduced.
Once it reaches its decision, a message is then sent to the Assembly advising of the Council’s actions. In cases where the Council disagrees with amendments made by the Assembly to Council amendments, it musts state the reasons for the disagreement.
The second scenario is where the Council disagrees with amendments made by the Assembly to a bill originating in the Council. The procedure followed in this scenario reflects that outlined above.
The most recent example of a disagreement between the Houses occurred on the final sitting day of 2018 regarding the Workers Compensation Legislation Amendment (Firefighters) Bill, which originated in the Assembly. The Council passed several amendments to the bill, which the Assembly subsequently disagreed with later on that day. The Assembly sent a message stating the reasons why it disagreed with the Council amendments. The House immediately resolved to consider the message, debated the reasons outlined by the Assembly, and ultimately did not insist on its amendments.
Although disagreements between the Houses are uncommon, another bill, the Government Sector Finance Legislation (Repeal and Amendment) Bill 2018, had been returned the previous week with a message advising that the Assembly disagreed with amendments made by the Council in June. The Council resolved not to insist on its amendments to the bill.
For more disagreeable information (a little joke, obviously!) you can read more on standing orders 152 (Assembly amendments to Council bills) and 156 (Council amendments to Assembly bills) in the Annotated Standing Orders of the Legislative Council, an excellent resource for all enthusiasts of parliamentary procedure.