Information Sheet 13 - Adjournment Debate

The purpose of the Adjournment debate

The Adjournment debate is only partly true to its name as, although it occurs after a motion is moved for the adjournment of the Council, it is not technically a debate but an opportunity for Members to raise issues of concern with Ministers. It provides a forum for Members to raise matters which are of recent occurrence and related to Victorian Government administration and, if desired, seek a response from the Minister.

When does the Adjournment debate occur?

adjournment1The Adjournment debate occurs in one of two ways: after a Minister moves a motion for the House to adjourn, which can be done at any time provided there is no question before the Chair; or via an automatic motion to adjourn. In the latter case, the President interrupts the House's business at 10.00 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (if the House is still sitting) and 4.00 p.m. if there is a Friday sitting. If the President, rather than a Minister, is to propose the Adjournment, the following is taken into account:

  • Any division must first be completed and the result announced;
  • The President has discretion to extend the time for up to ten minutes to allow for the completion of a speech on a motion for the second reading of a Bill; and
  • All Messages from the Assembly are announced and any Bills transmitted will be read a first time and their second reading made an Order of the Day for the next day of meeting.

Who may speak on the Adjournment

All Members, except for the Ministers and the President, are entitled to speak on the Adjournment. In order to do so, Members arrange with their party whip to have their name placed on a speakers' list. This list is provided to the President before the Adjournment debate commences. Although, in theory, the President is required to call on Members as they rise in their places, in practice the President will be guided by the order on the list. Members are allowed to raise only one matter during the Adjournment debate each sitting week, although they may give up their right to speak so that another Member may speak in their place. Members may only speak for a maximum of three minutes.

Orders and Rules governing the Adjournment debate

The Adjournment debate is governed by the Council's Standing Orders and precedents which have been developed and have evolved over the years. Traditionally, when Members spoke to the motion 'That the House do now adjourn', they were required to:

  • make a complaint; or
  • make a request; or
  • pose a query.


In 2010, the Standing Orders were altered to free up the Adjournment debate. Previously Members were required to request a specific action or response by the Minister. Current rules allow Members to raise any matter for consideration by the Minister and no specific request for an action is required.

The Standing Orders place restrictions on the content of matters raised on the Adjournment and require Members to: 

  • raise matters within the Victorian Government’s administrative competence;
  • not raise matters that have been discussed within the previous six months of the same session of Parliament; and
  • avoid raising matters in the form of a debate.

Ministerial Responses

adjournment2If a Member raises a matter which requires a response, Standing Orders require the response to either be given at the time the matter is raised or provided in writing within 30 days. Ministers can therefore choose to provide a response orally at the end of the Adjournment debate, or later in writing. If the matter requires a detailed response, if the relevant Minister is an Assembly Minister or if the Minister not present for the Adjournment debate, the Minister in the Chamber can state that he or she will refer the matter to the relevant Minister for a written response.

Before the daily Adjournment debate is concluded, a Minister will advise the Council of any written responses being provided to earlier adjournment debate matters, including the date the matter was raised and the name of the Member who raised the matter. A copy of the response will be given to the Member who raised the matter, and all responses will be incorporated in Hansard.

If the relevant Minister does not provide a response within 30 days, the Member may, at the conclusion of the daily Adjournment debate, ask the Minister for an explanation for why a response has not been provided. If the Minister does not provide an explanation satisfactory to the Member as to why a response has not been provided, at the conclusion of the explanation the Member may move, without notice, "That the Council take note of the explanation". Members can then debate the failure of the Minister to provide the response.

Time Limits

Members speaking to the motion to adjourn are limited to three minutes, however, Ministers' responses are not governed by such constraints. While no specific time frame has been established for each response, the Standing Orders require that, 'Any reply by a Minister to a matter raised on the motion for adjournment should be as brief as possible.' Despite the absence of strict time limits, Ministers have generally abided by this guideline and kept their responses relatively short.

Attendance of Ministers

Traditionally, all of the Legislative Council’s Ministers attended the Adjournment debate. This practice ceased on 27 March 2002 when the then Leader of the Government announced that in future only one Minister would do so. This change was consistent with the Australian Senate’s practices. Since then, only one Minister attends the Adjournment debate on a rotational basis.

 

Prepared by: Table Office
Department of the Legislative Council
Parliament of Victoria
Reissued July 2011