Odgers' Australian Senate Practice Thirteenth Edition

Chapter 17 - Witnesses

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One of the principal functions of the Senate, perhaps more important than the functions of making laws and debating matters of public interest, is to conduct inquiries into such matters of public interest and into the conduct of government. Inquiries assist the Senate to obtain information which is necessary to enable it to legislate effectively and to inform the public of the manner in which government is conducted so that the electors will also be capable of making informed decisions.

Inquiries are conducted principally by seeking information and opinions from persons who possess the information and whose views are likely to be significant. The formal method whereby this information-gathering is conducted is through hearings of evidence at which witnesses attend and provide information by making submissions and answering questions.

Inquiries and witnesses

Protection of witnesses

Summoning of witnesses

Immunity from summons

Senators as witnesses

Members or officers of other Houses

Former members of other Houses as witnesses

Ministerial staff as witnesses

Public servants as witnesses

Statutory office-holders as witnesses

Foreigners as witnesses

Evidence from overseas

Witnesses in custody

Swearing in of witnesses

Procedures for the examination of witnesses

Publication of in camera evidence

Offences by witnesses

Evidence given elsewhere by senators or officers

Witnesses as participants in the legislative process