The filibuster is a tactic opposition members use to delay a government Bill if they object to it
particularly strongly. The word comes from the Spanish filibustero, meaning "freebooter". In
the 17th century a filibustero could be one of the pirates who invaded the West Indies, and in
the mid-19th century, he could be an American adventurer trying to start a revolution in Cuba
or Nicaragua. But in spite of this romantic beginning, the word "filibuster" now usually means
delaying tactics in an Assembly, a definition that was first recorded in the United States in
Under the current rules of debate, members may speak only once at each stage of the
debate to the Bill and to every amendment and subamendment (amendment to the
amendment). At second reading, debate is limited to a discussion of the overall principle, so
the possibilities for amendment are very limited.
At the next stage, Committee of the Whole, the members study the Bill clause by clause, and
members can propose an amendment for every clause as well as several subamendments.
If members delay the Bill at this stage, the Assembly could theoretically debate the clauses
and amendments and subamendments until the government's term in office expires and an
election is called. But the chances of that happening are remote, because the governing
party can counter the filibuster through a measure called time
allocation, in which the government
moves a motion to set a limit on the time for debate. Both filibuster and closure are used sparingly.