Broadcasting and privilege
A publication of a record or report of the proceedings of the Senate or its committees, where the publication occurs by an order of the Senate or a committee, attracts absolute parliamentary privilege. As noted in this chapter, various publications are ordered by the Senate or by committees. Apart from the live publication of proceedings on the internet, however, broadcasts of proceedings do not occur by an order of the Senate or a committee, in that the relevant resolutions permit the use of excerpts selected by the media.
The Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act confers immunity from legal action on the radio broadcast of proceeding by the ABC, although the terms of the Act are not confined to that particular broadcast.
The Transport and Communications Legislation Amendment Bill 1991, introduced by the government, included provisions to amend the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act to extend to the televising of the proceedings of the two Houses and their committees the absolute privilege provided by the Act to radio broadcasts of the proceedings of the Houses. In the proceedings on the bill in the Senate on 14 November 1991, the provisions in question were struck out of the bill with the agreement of all parties. It was pointed out that the absolute privilege given to radio broadcasts was enacted when the only broadcast of proceedings was the virtually continuous radio broadcast by the then Australian Broadcasting Commission. When television stations were authorised to televise extracts of proceedings of the Houses and their committees, the question of extending absolute privilege to those broadcasts involved different issues. It was also pointed out that section 10 of the Parliamentary Privileges Act provides privilege for all fair and accurate reports of parliamentary proceedings, and that this cover is probably as much as is appropriate for the televising of extracts. Edited television extracts could constitute highly unfair and inaccurate reports of proceedings and should not have absolute privilege.