Parliament makes its decisions by voting in response to questions posed by the Chair—the President in the Senate or the Speaker in the House of Representatives. All members of Parliament can contribute to the debate of these questions and vote on the outcome. While senators and members don’t have to be present throughout all the debate, there is an expectation that they will be present for formal votes called ‘divisions’.
When a division is called, the Clerk rings the division bells for 4 minutes to request members or senators return to their house of Parliament. After 4 minutes, the doors are closed and locked, and members of Parliament are not allowed to enter or leave the room until the conclusion of the division.
On rare occasions, a member or senator may be late and miss entering before the doors are locked. The division will proceed in their absence and they will not be counted.
However, the House of Representatives has a provision in its Standing Orders (No. 132) that a member may move a motion ‘That the House divide again’. If this motion is agreed to, the vote is retaken and the result of the new division is recorded as the decision of the House.
The Senate has a similar provision (Standing Order No. 104) which allows another division for ‘Errors, confusion or misadventure in divisions’.