Chapter 30 - Witnesses

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181  Protection of witnesses

A witness examined before the Senate or a committee is entitled to the protection of the Senate in respect of the evidence of the witness.

Amendment history

Adopted: 19 August 1903 as SO 380 but renumbered as SO 376 for the first printed edition

1989 revision: Old SO 390 renumbered as SO 181 ; expression simplified

Commentary

The standing order is declaratory rather than procedural. It is given partial expression by provisions of the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987 which create offences of intimidating, threatening or improperly influencing witnesses in respect of their evidence, or penalising them or depriving them of benefits. In the case of witnesses appearing before Senate committees, it is also augmented by the Privilege Resolutions agreed to on 25 February 1988.

The standing order underwent only minor changes of expression in the course of the 1989 revision. For example, “evidence” replaced the more prescriptive phrase, “anything that may be said by them in their evidence”, probably reflecting a changing environment where written evidence is more common than at the time the standing orders were framed.

The Senate has frequently taken steps to ensure that witnesses are protected by this standing order.

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