Summary notes for witnesses appearing before Senate and Joint Committees
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1. Parliamentary Privilege: Committee proceedings are
recognised as proceedings in Parliament and are accorded the same protection as
proceedings in the Senate itself.
On 25 February 1988, the Senate agreed to a number of resolutions in
relation to Parliamentary Privilege including the protection of witnesses. The
details of the procedures to be observed by Senate Committees for the
protection of witnesses are in another brochure.
2. Opening Procedures and Calling of Witnesses: On entering the meeting room
please make yourself known to the committee
staff. Hansard staff will ask you to fill out a name and address form for
their records. When it is your turn to give evidence you will be asked by the
Chair to state your full name and the capacity in which you appear before the
committee. The Chair will also ask you if you wish your evidence or part of
your evidence to be taken in camera.
(Section 6 below deals with in camera
Committee decides to swear its witnesses, the Chair will call upon the
committee secretary to administer an oath or affirmation. The committee
provides a Bible for the swearing of the oath. Should you require a holy book
other than the Bible for the taking of an oath, or any information concerning
the taking of an oath or affirmation, please contact the Secretary before the
3. Documents Tendered: If you have made a written submission, the
Chair will ask you whether you wish to amend your submission. Once any changes,
alterations or additions have been noted, the Chair may then move a motion to
have the submission incorporated in the transcript of evidence. Additional
documents tendered as evidence, such as diagrams, maps, videos etc., may either
be incorporated or included in the committee's records as exhibits.
submission and any additional material has been incorporated in the transcript
of a public hearing or otherwise made public by the Committee, they are
available to the press and interested persons and organisations.
of Witnesses: Before inviting members of the committee to ask questions,
the Chair will give you the opportunity to make a short statement (usually
about 5 minutes) in support of the submission. Questions will then be directed
to you by the Chair and members of the committee. These questions are designed
to clarify aspects of your submission, to seek information relevant to matters
within the committee's terms of reference and to allow you to amplify any
points made in your submission. Generally the intention is to help the
committee go beyond the written submission. Witnesses should note Parliamentary
Privilege Resolution 1, paragraphs (10), (11), (12) and (13), set out in the
relevant brochure, relating to giving in
camera evidence, and evidence that adversely reflects on other persons.
5. Government Officials: Officers of a department of
the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory are not required to answer
questions which seek their opinions on the merits of government policy.
However, they may be asked to describe past and present policy and the effects
of changes in policy and discuss matters which public service advisers take
into account when advising on policy. Officers will be given reasonable opportunity
to refer questions asked of them to superior officers or to a Minister. For
further information, officers should consult the "Government Guidelines
for Official Witnesses before Parliamentary Committees and Related
6. In Camera Hearings: If, before or during the hearing of evidence,
you consider that information to be provided by you, or requested by a member
of the committee, is confidential you may make application to have your
evidence, or part of it, heard in camera.
Evidence taken in camera, although
recorded by Hansard, is not made
available to anyone but members of the committee and the witness concerned.
If an application is made for evidence to be taken in camera, the committee will consider the application and inform
the witness whether it will grant the application.
application is not granted, the committee will provide reasons for that
decision. Before evidence is heard in camera,
the committee will inform the witness whether it is the intention of the
committee to publish, or present to the Senate, all or part of the evidence. It
should be noted that the committee and the Senate may, at a later date, order
the production and publication of in
Material: Should you consider that you cannot answer a question or provide
information at the hearing, you may seek permission to provide a written answer
or additional material at a later date.
8. Recording of
Evidence: The Parliamentary Reporting Staff (Hansard) will record the
proceedings of the public or in camera
hearing. A proof copy of the transcript of evidence will be forwarded to you
for examination and correction where necessary. Instructions will be sent to
you regarding the kinds of corrections you may make to the transcript. Only
transcription errors may be corrected.
9. Broadcast of Public Hearings: Public hearings held in Parliament House, Canberra may be broadcast live over the parliamentary website and parliamentary television channels and may also be rebroadcast by the media. Objections to this may be raised for the committee’s consideration by witnesses prior to (including at the time) of their appearance before the committee.
Advice: If you require any further information concerning the Committee's hearing, please contact the Committee Secretary. Inquiries from hearing and speech impaired people should be directed to the Parliament House TTY number (02) 6277 7799.
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