Table Office


Programming and procedural support to the Senate and the legislative process.

Publication of formal and informal records of Senate business.

Receipt, dissemination and storage of documents.

Secretariat support for the Publications; Selection of Bills; and Senators’ Interests committees.

Performance information Performance results

Procedural advice and legislative documents are accurate and timely.

Advice was given as required. Legislative documents were accurate and produced within required timeframes.

Order of Business, Notice Paper and Senate Journals are accurate and published within required timeframes.

Other publications are accurate and timely.

All information resources were accurate and published according to required timeframes.

Tabled documents are processed and stored, and available online wherever possible.

Senate records were accurately recorded and safely stored and documents were distributed in a timely manner.

Committees are supported; advice, documentation, publications and draft reports are accurate and timely.

Committee meetings were held, documents provided and reports prepared within agreed timeframes.


The Table Office is led by the Clerk Assistant (Table) and has three functional areas, as shown in figure 6.

Executive and programming
Tim Bryant, Clerk Assistant

Procedural advice to government senators, programming support and production of the Order of Business.

Secretary to the Selection of Bills and Senators’ Interests committees, and Registrar of Senators’ Interests.

Legislation and Documents Journals and Notice Paper
Ivan Powell, Director

Processing legislation

Processing and custody of documents

Inquiries services

Secretary to the Publications Committee

Records management

Production of the Notice Paper and Senate Journals

Processing questions on notice, orders for the production of documents and petitions

The Table Office provided support for the Senate on each of its 33 sitting days in this reporting period – fewer than the usual number of sitting days per year, but consistent with the number in an election year. All performance results, as outlined in the above table, were achieved within established timeframes. Project work was completed or has continued, as forecast.

Much of the work of the Table Office involves direct contact with senators and their staff, as well as other clients. This presents an ongoing opportunity to receive and respond to feedback about the services provided by the office. Feedback was generally positive. The next formal survey of satisfaction levels is proposed for 2022–23.

Staff numbers remained steady during the reporting period, with an average full-time equivalent level of 14.3. The cost of the office was $2.0m ($2.1m in 2020–21).

Figure 6 – Elements and responsibilities of the Table Office

Programming and procedural support

The Table Office supported the operation of the Senate by providing programming support, preparing procedural scripts for use in the chamber (827 in 2021–22, averaging 25 per sitting day) and providing a broadcast captioning service of Senate proceedings. The Order of Business (the program for each day’s sitting) was prepared in draft form to assist senators (especially the whips) and published as a final edition prior to each sitting. The Clerk Assistant (Table) and other staff of the office provided procedural advice to government office holders in relation to programming and the management of government business in the Senate, and also worked closely with the Parliamentary Liaison Officer (Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet) to facilitate government business in the Senate.

Formal records

The Notice Paper is the formal agenda of the Senate. The Notice Paper was produced and published by the Table Office in advance of each sitting day. The Senate Journals is the official record of decisions made by the Senate. Proof Senate Journals were published online shortly after the end of each sitting day, and printed versions distributed the next morning. Final Senate Journals were subsequently produced following thorough checking of source materials.


The office facilitated the legislative work of the Parliament by processing all bills considered in the Senate, preparing legislative documents including third reading and assent prints of bills passed, and processing assent messages.

The office also prepared the formal messages by which the two Houses communicate on legislative and other activity. In 2021–22, 101 messages were prepared, of which 89 related to the passage of bills (the remaining related to matters such as committee memberships). These figures compare to 194 messages, of which 165 related to the passage of bills, in 2020–21. Figure 7 reflects the level of legislative activity in recent years.

Figure 7 – Senate legislative activity, 2018–19 to 2021–22

Figure 7 – Senate legislative activity, 2018–19 to 2021–22

Questions on notice, notices of motion and petitions

Senators continued to use the questions on notice process – written questions to ministers on the administration of public policy – as an important accountability mechanism. Throughout the reporting period, 960 questions were asked on notice. These were processed and published to a searchable database on the Parliament’s website within established timeframes.

In 2021–22, the office processed all notices of motion received for inclusion in the Notice Paper – 254 for this reporting period compared to 646 in the previous period. These notices signal senators’ intentions to move particular motions on specified days. The office also processed 4 petitions which senators had lodged for presentation to the Senate (compared to 12 petitions in 2020–21).

Another frequently used means of obtaining information about matters of concern to the Senate are orders for documents. During 2021–22, the office processed 51 orders for documents made by the Senate.


The office received and processed all of the 4,087 documents provided for tabling in the Senate in this reporting period, recorded their details in the Senate Journals andIndex to the Papers Presented to Parliament, and archived them. This figure is comparable to the 4,099 documents tabled in the previous period. Figure 8 shows the number of documents tabled in the Senate in recent years.

All documents presented to the Senate in the reporting period were digitised and made publicly available on the Parliament’s website, except for those documents already made available on the Federal Register of Legislation by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel.

Significant work continues to be undertaken to organise and rationalise the office’s holdings of hard copy materials to ensure the preservation of historically important material and the efficient use of the office’s document storage areas.

Figure 8 – Documents tabled in the Senate, 2018–19 to 2021–22

Figure 8 – Documents tabled in the Senate, 2018–19 to 2021–22

Support for committees

During the year, the office provided secretariat support to three committees. All committee meetings were convened, papers prepared (including draft reports as required) and other administrative support provided within the timeframes required by the committees.

The Clerk Assistant (Table) is secretary to the Selection of Bills Committee which meets and reports each sitting week on recommendations to refer bills to the legislation committees for inquiry. He is also secretary to the Senators’ Interests Committee and is the Registrar of Senators’ Interests, with responsibility for, among other things, administering the Register of Senators’ Interests and the Register of Senators’ Qualifications, both of which are published online.

In addition, the Director of the Table Office provided secretariat support to the Senate Publications Committee.

Performance outlook

In 2022–23, the Table Office will continue to serve as the secretariat to the Senate, and to certain committees.

The existing timeframes set for the provision of various services remain appropriate, with a few minor adjustments reflected in the office’s 2022–23 work plan. The office will continue to monitor its performance through the collation of a range of statistics and feedback and exception-based reporting of non-compliance. In addition, a formal survey of senators’ satisfaction with Table Office services will be conducted in the upcoming year.

The key procedural publications – Order of Business, Notice Paper and Senate Journals – produced by the office will continue to be refreshed to reflect the evolving style of Senate and departmental documents, and a continued emphasis on publishing procedural material in digital formats to support accessibility and efficiency and to reduce printing costs.

The office will also continue to support various ICT related activities, including contributing to the ongoing maintenance, enhancement and testing of existing systems that support the work of the office and the Senate, as well as involvement in projects such as the bedding down of a new system to facilitate the receipt and publication of tabled documents in digital format which promises significant efficiencies when fully operational.

The key staffing focus for the next reporting period remains the sharing of skills and knowledge to ensure sufficient back-up is available to fill in for staff who are in isolation or on leave, as well as bringing in staff from other areas of the department from time-to-time, to ensure that expertise in relation to specific tasks is not unduly concentrated.