Since the establishment of the Senate all of its proceedings have been conducted in public. The standing orders contemplate that the Senate may meet in private session, but this could occur only by a deliberate decision of the Senate.
Documents laid before the Senate are automatically published.
Provision is made in the Senate chamber for public galleries, for a press gallery and for facilities for radio and television broadcasting.
Any person may attend in the public galleries and observe the proceedings. Visitors in the galleries are required to refrain from any interruption to proceedings or discourtesy to the Senate, particularly any interjection or demonstration of support or dissent in relation to the proceedings. A person who wilfully disturbs a meeting of the Senate may be guilty of a contempt. The chair may order disorderly persons to withdraw from the galleries. The Usher of the Black Rod, subject to any direction by the Senate or the President, may take into custody any person who causes a disturbance in or near the chamber.
Only senators and officers attending on the Senate may be present on the floor of the chamber when the Senate is meeting. The President may, by leave of the Senate, invite distinguished visitors to take a seat in the chamber. This procedure is used for visiting presiding officers of foreign or state parliaments. The practice is for the President to inform the Senate of the presence of the visitor and announce that, with the concurrence of the Senate, the President proposes to invite the visitor to take a seat in the chamber.
Journalists who are members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery are provided with a gallery behind and above the President’s chair and a soundproofed media workroom above that gallery. Membership of the Press Gallery, granted by the Presiding Officers, entitles a member to admission to the gallery and, subject to arrangements agreed upon by the Presiding Officers and the Gallery Committee, to press office facilities.
Members of the Gallery must abide by conditions which cover such matters as behaviour within the parliamentary precincts, and non-compliance with the conditions by members of the Gallery may result in restrictions on an individual’s or organisation’s rights of access to Parliament House. A press gallery pass may be withdrawn by the Presiding Officers for breaches of the conditions applying to membership of the Press Gallery.
Places are reserved for advisers to the government and senators in the chamber. Advisers attending on senators are required to behave with decorum and not disturb proceedings. Subject to that requirement, senators are entitled to have whomever they choose as their advisers in their advisers’ benches.