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Odgers' Australian Senate Practice Thirteenth Edition

Chapter 3 - Publication of Senate proceedings

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Broadcasting of proceedings

Proceedings of the Senate and its committees are widely broadcast through electronic media.

Proceedings of the Senate, and proceedings of its committees when they are televised, are available live in sound and visual images on the internet, in accordance with an authorising resolution.[12]

Live radio and television broadcasts of proceedings occur through the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio broadcasts, the televising of question time, and the internal and subscription television service provided by the house monitoring system.

The proceedings of the two Houses of the Parliament have been broadcast on radio since 1946 by the ABC, as required by the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act 1946. Question time in the Senate has been televised by the ABC since August 1990. These were originally all live telecasts, but since the House of Representatives approved the television coverage of question time in that House, some are re-broadcast. All proceedings in the Senate and in some of its committees are broadcast on radio and television within Parliament House and to external subscribers by the house monitoring system.

Apart from these live broadcasts, radio and television stations are also permitted to use recorded excerpts of Senate proceedings. Resolutions of the Senate first passed on 13 December 1988 and 31 May 1990 (the latter amended on 18 October 1990 and 9 May 1991) set out rules for the use of excerpts, the principal rule being that excerpts are to be used only for the purposes of fair and accurate reports of proceedings.

A resolution of 23 August 1990 authorised Senate committees to permit the broadcasting of their public proceedings, subject to similar rules, and a resolution of 13 February 1991 permitted persons other than television stations to make use of video recordings of Senate proceedings. An order first passed on 14 October 1991 permitted the broadcasting of estimates committee hearings. These provisions were consolidated into a set of broadcasting orders passed on 13 February 1997.

Proceedings of Senate committees conducting public hearings in Canberra are broadcast by radio and television on the house monitoring system, and excerpts are used by the media, in accordance with the order relating to committees. All estimates hearings and most other hearings of Senate committees are televised within Parliament House, and excerpts may be used by broadcasters and other individuals. Resources determine how many committee hearings are broadcast on the house monitoring system and recorded for later use. Committees may also permit other broadcasters to cover their proceedings when they meet outside Canberra. Any coverage must conform with any conditions set by the committees, which must not be inconsistent with the rules adopted by the Senate.[13]

The televising of Senate proceedings was initiated by a motion moved by an Opposition senator. On 30 May 1990, Senator Vanstone gave notice that she would move to permit the televising of question time for a trial period. The Senate resolved the following day to proceed with the trial, but referred to the Procedure Committee the conditions relating to it.[14] The Procedure Committee recommended that no changes should be made, but that the conditions should be tried and reviewed in the light of experience.[15] Two modifications to the order were subsequently made. On 18 October 1990 reference to a trial period was omitted, and on 9 May 1991 the condition prohibiting the broadcasting of the adjournment debate was omitted.[16]

12. 31/8/1999, J.1606.
13. Unruly media coverage of hearings of the Economics Legislation Committee in June 2009 were addressed by the Committee of Privileges in its 142nd Report, PP 396/2009.
14. 31/5/1990, J.193.
15. First Report of 1990, August 1990, PP 436/1990, p. 1.
16. 18/10/1990, J.361; 9/5/1991, J.1006.