Notes to help those intending to make a submission to a parliamentary committee inquiry
The following advice may assist you in making a submission to a parliamentary committee.
The main purpose of a parliamentary committee is to examine a topic relevant to its area of interest or expertise. Such inquiries usually result in a report to the Parliament. Most inquiries have terms of reference, which set out the matters to be considered by the committee. The terms of reference will be available on the committee’s website.
As part of an inquiry, a committee usually asks for written submissions addressing the terms of reference. Requests for submissions may be advertised and are also published on the committee’s website, as are closing dates for submissions and updates on the inquiry’s progress. If you need more time to lodge a submission, contact the secretary of the relevant committee.
Information about current committee inquiries can be found at: www.aph.gov.au/house/committee
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Who can make a submission?
Any individual or organisation can make a submission to a parliamentary committee.
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What should be in a submission?
There is no standard form for a submission to a parliamentary committee. Submissions may be in the form of a letter, a short document or a more substantial paper. They may include appendices and other supporting documents.
Submissions should be prepared solely for the inquiry. They should comment on at least one of the terms of reference. You may wish to include facts, opinions and arguments and recommendations for action.
Anyone preparing a detailed submission for the first time may find it useful to seek advice from the staff of the committee secretariat. Submissions which address the terms of reference directly, which avoid unnecessary repetition and include recommendations that stand out clearly from the surrounding text are particularly appreciated. If your submission is long, it would be useful to include a brief summary of the main points.
During an inquiry, you can make further comments, in the form of a supplementary submission, to provide additional evidence or comment on other evidence obtained by the committee.
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How to lodge a submission
Lodging a submission online is preferred. Online submissions can be made via a link on the inquiry home page. For first time submitters, this will require you to create a My Parliament account. This account can be used again for future submissions and also for tracking committees and bills. You will need to provide your name and a valid email address to create a My Parliament account.
More information regarding online submissions can be found here.
Submissions can be uploaded in Microsoft Word®, Portable Document Format (PDF) or plain text format. You can upload multiple documents for a single inquiry, e.g. a covering letter, public submission and a confidential attachment can be uploaded at the same time.
An acknowledgement will be sent to your email address confirming the successful lodgement of your submission.
Submissions provided by email, post or fax will also be accepted. Individual committee addresses are available on the Australian Parliament’s website.
Submissions must include the name(s), return address(es), and contact telephone number(s) of the person(s) or organisation making the submission. Submissions should be lodged by the advertised closing date. You can request an extension of time by contacting the committee secretariat, although an extension may not always be possible, particularly if the committee has to report in a short timeframe.
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Things you need to know
Publication of submissions
Once a submission is received by a committee, it cannot be published or disclosed to any other person unless or until the committee has authorised its publication; nor can it be withdrawn or altered without the committee’s permission. If there are additional matters you wish to raise, this can be done in a supplementary submission.
Once the committee has received a submission it will decide whether to accept it as a submission and authorise its publication. The committee will reserve the right not to publish a submission, or any part of a submission, that it judges does not address the inquiry’s terms of reference.
You should be aware that submissions are part of a committee’s public record and are usually published on the Parliament’s website. The public can also ask for a copy of a submission by contacting the committee secretariat. To protect the privacy of submitters, the secretariat will remove signatures and, where appropriate, contact details before publishing submissions. To assist us, we encourage you to include any personal information in a covering letter, not in the body of your submission.
While committees prefer that evidence be given in public whenever possible, you can request that all or part of your submission remain confidential. This should be indicated clearly on the front of the submission. When submitting online, you will be prompted to submit a reason for this request.
You could also consider putting any confidential information in an appendix to the submission to allow the body of the submission to be published. You should contact the committee secretariat in the first instance if you are considering lodging a submission that you would wish to remain confidential, either in whole or in part.
The committee will consider individual requests for confidentiality, but retains the authority to publish any submission. A committee may also decide not to authorise publication of a submission for a range of reasons, despite the author wishing it to be public.
The presentation or submission of a document to a committee is privileged under the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987. This means that a person is immune from legal action in respect of lodging the submission or any statements contained in it. If a submission is authorised by a committee for publication, its distribution is also immune from legal action.
You are strongly encouraged to contact the committee secretariat to clarify the status of your submission if you wish to distribute it outside the committee, or if you have any queries about the application of parliamentary privilege.
A parliamentary committee will base its findings on the written submissions it receives as well as oral evidence it takes at public hearings. People or organisations making a submission may be asked to appear before the committee at a public hearing or a closed (in camera) hearing (see also the pamphlet Appearing at a Public Hearing).
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Inquiry process at a glance
The inquiry process may vary from inquiry to inquiry as circumstances demand but usually consists of the following steps.
- Reference received by the committee.
- Reference advertised through various media, and submissions sought from individuals and organisations.
- Submissions received and authorised for publication.
- Committee conducts on-site inspections, background briefing and seminars (where appropriate).
- Committee conducts public hearings with selected individuals and organisations requested to give oral evidence.
- Committee considers evidence and prepares report.
- The report is presented to the Parliament and may be debated.
- Copies of the report are made available through various means including through the national and state libraries and publication on the Parliament’s website.
- Government considers report.
- Government responds to report either by presenting a written response in the Parliament or, in the case of a bill inquiry, by discussion the report in parliamentary debate on the bill.
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Before lodging your submission you may find it helpful to consider the following checklist:
- Have I commented on some or all of the terms of reference?
- Have I provided a summary of the submission at the front (for lengthy submissions)?
- Have I provided my return address and contact details with the submission?
- Have I ensured that my personal details are excluded from the body of the submission?
- If the submission contains confidential information, have I made this clear in the reasons for requesting confidentiality and on the front of the submission?
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