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Odgers' Australian Senate Practice Thirteenth Edition

Chapter 18 - Documents tabled in the Senate

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Publication of documents

The publication of each document laid on the table of the Senate is authorised on tabling.[73] This provision attracts paragraph 16(2)(d) of the Parliamentary Privileges Act, which extends the protection of proceedings in Parliament to the publication of a document by or pursuant to an order of a House or a committee, and to the document so published (see Chapter 2, Parliamentary Privilege, under Preparation and publication of documents).

A standing order in these terms was first adopted on 19 February 1988 after the Procedure Committee had drawn attention to a potential difficulty arising from the wording of the old standing order, which did not make it clear that the publication of every tabled document was authorised. It was considered that there was no absolute privilege for the publication of a tabled document in the absence of an order of the Senate authorising its publication. In recommending that the standing order be changed, the committee suggested that the new order should enable the Senate to continue the past practice of making tabled documents generally available.[74]

All documents laid upon the table and not ordered to be printed are referred to the Publications Committee, which considers all such documents, and reports from time to time on which documents ought to be printed. The Senate usually adopts the reports of the committee, thereby ordering the printing of documents in accordance with recommendations of the committee.

Documents ordered to be printed, either by order of a House or by the adoption of the recommendations of the Publications Committee, are published as Parliamentary Papers. This series of papers is widely distributed according to a list approved by the Presiding Officers on the recommendation of the Clerks of the Houses. The series is distributed to organisations such as state public libraries and universities, which retain them for reference and research purposes. In 2010, the Joint Committee on Publications presented a report recommending that the parliamentary departments develop a digital repository for the Parliamentary Papers Series to address concerns about wider and long-term access.[75] A response from the Presiding Officers agreeing to the recommendations in principle was tabled in both Houses.[76]

73. SO 167.
74. First Report, 63rd Session, PP 215/1987. Also see Annotated Standing Orders of the Australian Senate, under SO 167.
75. PP No. 160/2010.
76. 25/11/2010, VP.260; 9/2/11, J.547. A government response to the remaining recommendation was tabled on 15/9/2011, J.1487.