Report No. 2 of 2017
The Committee of Senators’ Interests, established under standing
order 22A, provides this report on its operations. This report covers the
period from 1 January 2017 to 31 December 2017.
This is the 22nd report of the committee. As part
of its report, the committee provides background information on the
registration of interests and the role of the committee. This report also
covers the implementation of an order of the Senate to compile and publish a
citizenship register of senators.
Registration of interests and the role of the committee
On 17 March 1994 the Senate adopted the Senators’ Interests
resolutions. The resolutions act as a safeguard against conflicts of interest,
and the perception of such conflicts, by requiring senators to lodge statements
of registrable interests to enhance transparency in relation to the exercise of
their public duties.
Registrable interests range from assets and liabilities,
interests in trusts and partnerships, directorships, gifts, sponsored travel
and hospitality, and certain relationships with organisations (as an
officeholder or financial contributor over a threshold amount).
Senators may also choose to declare things that would not, on their face,
appear to engage any of the listed registrable interests.
This is a matter for the judgement of individual senators.
From its inception, the committee has stressed that it is
the responsibility of individual senators to interpret the resolutions and to
determine which of their interests fall within its terms, rather than relying
on external advice about what ‘should’ or ‘should not’ be declared. This
reflects the unique status of members of Parliament as elected officers,
responsible primarily to the electors and to the House to which they have been
The committee has developed explanatory notes to guide
senators in meeting the requirements of the regime. It is to the resolutions,
forms and notes, and to any other commentary by the committee, that senators
should turn for assistance in determining how the disclosure regime applies to
their own particular circumstances. Any senator may request from the committee
clarification of any aspect or raise any matter relating to the form and content
of the register. The committee may respond to such requests by providing
individual guidance, by amending the explanatory notes or by proposing
amendments to the Senators’ Interests resolutions.
During the reporting period, the committee did not receive
any submissions from senators or directions from the Senate in relation to the
Senators' Interests resolutions. As previously discussed in the 21st
Report, the committee noted that a motion moved by the Leader of the Australian
Greens, Senator Di Natale, on 16 February 2017 was not supported by the Senate.
This motion had proposed that the form of the register should be amended to
include a declaration by senators as to how they disbursed funds known as an
A senator’s statement of interests includes a public
statement of their personal interests and a confidential statement of the
interests, of which they are aware, of their spouses or partners and dependent
Each senator must provide such a statement within 28 days of
making and subscribing an oath or affirmation of allegiance AND within 28 days
after the first meeting of the Senate after 1 July first occurring after a
general election. Senators must also notify any alteration in these interests
within 35 days of the alteration occurring.
Statements of registrable interests must accord with the
Senators' Interests resolutions and should be in the form determined by the
The statements of senators’ interests are kept on a public
register which is available for inspection by any person under conditions laid
down by the committee. Since 2011 these statements have been available online
on the committee’s web pages, largely obviating the need to inspect the
Statements of the registrable interests of a senator’s
spouse or partner and of any dependent children remain confidential, except
where the committee considers that a conflict of interest arises, at which time
the committee may table the declaration. To date the committee has not had
cause to consider taking this action.
The Senators’ Interests forms, explanatory notes and other
relevant documents are published on the committee’s website and have been
compiled into a handbook, available from the Registrar of Senators’ Interests.
Online publication of statements of interests
Statements of senators’ interests are published online on
the committee’s web pages, in accordance with the following procedures:
Statements are published under each senator’s name.
Statements are scanned without any watermarking or redaction.
Notifications of alterations are added to the relevant senator’s
Updates are published at least weekly.
As statements of senators’ interests are available online,
the committee no longer keeps record of those who access the hard copy
Maintenance of the register
The committee requires the Registrar of Senators’ Interests
to write to all senators to remind them of their obligations under the
resolutions. This occurs on a routine basis, (at least twice a year) and
senators were reminded of their obligations in June and December 2017.
Current statements (together with relevant alterations) are
published online, together with six-monthly compilation volumes of statements
and alterations, which are also tabled in the Senate.
During the reporting period, the committee tabled report
number 1 of 2017.
On 13 November 2017, the
Senate agreed to the establishment of a citizenship register which required
senators to provide to the Registrar of Senators' Interests a statement
containing a declaration that the senator did not hold citizenship of another
country. The resolution also required other details such as the place of birth
of the senator and his/her parents and grandparents; citizenship held at birth;
the date of naturalisation as an Australian citizen if acquired separately; and
– if applicable – details of attempts to renounce foreign citizenship.
The resolution required statements to be made in accordance
with the resolution and in a format determined by the committee of Senators'
Interests. Following the Senate's agreement of the resolution, the committee
met to determine the format in which statements should be made and contacted
senators to advise them of the requirement to comply with the resolution of the
In a statement to the Senate on Monday, 4 December, the
Chair advised that by the deadline of 5pm, Friday 1st December 2017,
all senators had submitted statements and where necessary, supporting
documentation. In accordance with a resolution of the committee, the documents
were published by the registrar at 12 noon on 4 December. The register has been
updated since then as new senators have filled casual vacancies or were
declared elected by the High Court.
During the reporting period, the committee received no
requests in relation to the form and content of the register of senators’
interests, nor in relation to the register of official gifts which is also
administered by the committee. Assistance was provided by the Registrar to a
range of routine inquiries, particularly from new senators. Advice was also
provided in relation to an inquiry about a proposed gift to the Parliament
which did not meet the requirements of the Senate Resolution.
During the reporting period, the committee requested the
Senate Department to develop an interactive form to facilitate the lodgement
and publication of senators' interests statements. The department has worked
with the Department of Parliamentary Services to build a prototype application
which should be available for testing in 2018 and is expected to be introduced
at the commencement of the 46th Parliament. Further consultation
with the committee will occur during the testing phase.
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