The Senate may order that documents be “laid on the table” of the Senate. The power to require the production of information is one of the most significant powers available to a legislature to enable it to carry out its functions of scrutinising legislation and the performance of the executive arm of government. The Senate possesses this power through section 49 of the Constitution.
Standing order 164 contains provisions about communicating such orders, tabling 'returns' to orders and dealing with non-compliance. Orders are communicated to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and to the relevant Senate minister, although they may also be directed to statutory authorities or office holders. Each order identifies documents to be produced, and specifies a date for compliance. In some instances an order may specify information which requires a document to be created.
Orders agreed to
Each order specifies a date (and often a time) on which the documents are due. If a minister does not comply with an order within 30 days after the date specified, a senator may seek an explanation. The explanation – or failure to provide an explanation – may then be debated.
Government compliance report
On 7 December 2017, the Senate agreed to a continuing order requiring that twice each year the Government table a list showing all orders for the production of documents which have not been complied with in full, together with a statement indicating whether resistance to compliance is maintained and why.
Compliance reports for:
- 46th Parliament
- 45th Parliament, as at: