House of Representatives Practice, 6th edition – HTML version

17 - Documents

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Orders and resolutions in relation to documents

Motion that a document be made a Parliamentary Paper

The motion ‘That the document be made a Parliamentary Paper’ is moved to enable the House to print the document separately for the Parliamentary Papers Series see page 838). Debate on this motion is possible.[76] Standing order 202 provides that, on any document being presented to the House, a Minister may move without notice ‘That the document be made a Parliamentary Paper’ and/or ‘That the House take note of the document’.

The publication of documents ordered to be made a Parliamentary Paper is protected under the Parliamentary Papers Act (see page 622). However, this consideration is no longer critical, as all documents presented to the House are now automatically authorised for publication by standing order 203.

Before November 2004 the motion ‘That the paper be printed’ was used. The effect was exactly the same as the current motion to make a document a Parliamentary Paper.

Motion to take note of document

A motion ‘That the House take note of the document’ is a procedure employed in cases where the House may wish to debate the subject matter of a document, whether it is a ministerial statement that has been presented or any other document presented to the House, without coming to any positive decision concerning the document.[77] If the motion is not moved by a Minister at the time of presentation of the document, it may be moved by any Member later on notice,[78] or by leave.[79] This motion is used only in relation to a document that has been presented to the House, and thus is not possible in relation to a statement if a copy has not been presented.[80]

A motion to take note of a ministerial statement may be debated immediately, shadow ministers having been given advance copies of the statements. However, in the case of the majority of motions to take note of a presented document such as a report, debate is immediately adjourned (customarily on the motion of an opposition Member) and the adjourned debate made an order of the day for the next sitting. The timing of the resumption of debate (possibly in the Federation Chamber) is a matter for negotiation between the parties.

Before the establishment of the Main Committee (now renamed Federation Chamber) a large proportion of these orders of the day were later discharged from the Notice Paper, or lapsed on dissolution, not having been debated. Motions have been moved to take note of documents presented for the specific purpose of enabling a matter to be referred to the Federation Chamber for debate or further debate—for example, copies of motions already passed in the House.[81] Orders of the day referred to the Federation Chamber may be returned to the House after debate.[82]

When documents are presented together according to a previously circulated list see page 827), a single motion may be moved that the House take note of certain documents presented, and the resumption of debate on the motion to take note of each of the documents is made a separate order of the day on the Notice Paper.[83]

A motion to take note is open to amendment. Amendments generally take the form ‘That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: …’. The terms of such amendments have proposed action relating to the document presented,[84] or expressed opinion on the subject of the document.[85] It is unusual for a vote to be taken on a motion to take note.[86] Normally, debate is adjourned and the order of the day remains on the Notice Paper, thus enabling further debate on the matter if this is desired.

Resolutions authorising the production of documents and attendance of House employees in court or other proceedings

Only if the House grants permission, may an employee of the House, or other staff employed to record evidence before the House or one of its committees, give evidence relating to proceedings or give evidence relating to the examination of a witness.[87] This requirement has been extended in practice to cover the production of documents and records. Those who desire to produce evidence of parliamentary proceedings or any document in the custody of the Clerk of the House of Representatives have been required, by the traditional practice of the House, to petition the House for leave of the House to be given for the production of the documents and, if necessary, for the attendance of an appropriate employee in court.[88] On receipt of the petition it has been the practice of the Clerk to refer it to the Leader of the House, who is the appropriate Minister to move a motion for the granting of leave of the House.[89] In some cases motions to grant leave have been moved without a petition having been presented[90] or following the presentation by the Speaker of a less formal communication.[91] All sides of the House have been involved in the consideration of such a matter.[92]

During a period when the House is not sitting, the Speaker, in order to prevent delays in the administration of justice, may allow the production of documents and the attendance of employees in response to a request.[93] However, should any question of privilege be involved, or should the production of a document appear, on other grounds, to be a subject for the discretion of the House itself, the request would probably be declined and the matter referred to the House.

This practice and the issues involved are covered in detail in the Chapter on ‘Parliamentary privilege’. Further information of a historical nature is contained in Chapter 17 of the first edition.

76. E.g. H.R. Deb. (10.5.2000) 16187, VP 1998–2001/1433.
77. For procedures applying to the presentation of committee and delegation reports see Chs on ‘Non-government business’ and ‘Committees’.
78. S.O. 202(c).
79. VP 2008–10/495.
80. H.R. Deb. (10.3.2010) 2166.
81. E.g. VP 2002–04/691; 1064; 1233–4. Another example is a copy of an announcement of the death of a former Member, providing, in effect, the opportunity for a condolence debate, VP 2002–04/1401, 1428. (Main Committee)
82. VP 1993–95/2427 (Main Committee).
83. S.O. 202(b).
84. E.g. VP 1985–87/882—amendment to disallow regulations that were the subject of the ministerial statement.
85. E.g. VP 2002–04/400, 709, 725–6 (amendment to proposed amendment)—amendments critical of government position given in ministerial statements, and expressing alternative views.
86. Examples of a ‘take note’ being agreed to: VP 1970–72/667 (Privileges Committee report); VP 1995–96/2293–4 (ministerial statement on ‘An Australian Republic’); VP 2004–7/475 (copies of three condolence motions, already agreed to, referred for debate in the Main Committee).
87. S.O. 253.
88. See Committee of Privileges, The use of or reference to the records of proceedings of the House in the courts, PP 154 (1980) 6. Leave of the Senate is not required in these circumstances (resolution of 25.2.88, J 1987–90/525, 536). In 1980 the UK House of Commons dispensed with the requirement that leave be granted in respect of the production of parliamentary records.
89. E.g. VP 1985–87/1355.
90. E.g. VP 1983–84/881.
91. H.R. Deb.(25.2.1992) 27 (faxed letter to the Speaker); VP 1996–98/514, 525 (following statement of committee chair); VP 1998–2001/823, 827 (faxed letter to the Speaker).
92. In a 1992 case the matter was referred also to the Manager of Opposition Business and the (sole) independent Member, who each spoke to the motion moved on behalf of the Leader of the House, H.R. Deb. (25.2.1992) 390–92.
93. VP 1996–98/408 (House informed of Speaker’s decision).