Government guidelines for witnesses before Committees

In the Australian system of parliamentary government, and consistent with the traditional understanding of ministerial responsibility, the public and parliamentary advocacy and defence of government policies and administration has traditionally been, and should remain, the preserve of Ministers, not officials. The duty of the public servant is to assist ministers to fulfil their accountability obligations by providing full and accurate information to the Parliament about the factual and technical background to policies and their administration. The guidelines are therefore aimed at encouraging the freest possible flow of such information between the public service, the Parliament and the public.

Scope of guidelines

The guidelines apply primarily to the preparation of submissions and the giving of evidence to parliamentary committees by officials, although sections 3-6 also discuss their relevance to contexts outside parliamentary committees, including party committees, Royal Commissions, individual Members of Parliament, speeches, public inquiries and court appearances.

The previous version of the guidelines was tabled in the Parliament in August 1984. Changes have been made to take account of the Senate Parliamentary Privilege Resolutions of 25 February 1988 (see Appendix) and recent experience with the appearance of witnesses before parliamentary committees.

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Further information

Further information can be sought from the secretary of the committee conducting the particular inquiry or from:

Clerk Assistant (Committees)
House of Representatives
PO Box 6021
Parliament House

Phone: +61 2 6277 4397

Fax: +61 2 6277 4034


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