Parliamentary privilege enables Members of Parliament the freedom to speak their minds without fear of legal action for what they say. This freedom is essential for any legislature in a democracy to operate effectively and has been assured by Article 9 of the Bill of Rights 1689 and the Western Australian Parliamentary Privileges Act 1891.
From time to time, people may feel that they have been adversely affected by statements made in or reports presented to the Legislative Council. Under those circumstances, a person or a corporation may request another member to put forth their perspective in debate, petition the Legislative Council or have another member ask a question in the Council on their behalf, in order to publicly defend themselves or correct misstatements. The Legislative Council has agreed that another option be made available to those people who believe that they have been adversely referred to in the Council. The Standing Order that was adopted by the Council allows an aggrieved person or corporation to make a submission in writing to the President seeking to have an appropriate response published in Hansard.
This Standing Order does not mean that aggrieved persons or corporations will automatically have their responses published. Nor does it limit a member’s freedom of speech in any way. Members of Parliament still retain absolute parliamentary privilege for whatever they say in the Council.
If a person or corporation is referred to in the Council by name or in such a way that they can be readily identified, and if the person considers that they have been adversely affected by that reference, that person may write to the President requesting that their response be published. If the request appears to be appropriate, the President will refer the matter to the Procedure and Privileges Committee. The Committee will then consider the request in detail and report to the Council whether or not a response should be published.
The Committee shall scrutinise the request to ensure that the matter is not trivial, frivolous, vexatious or offensive and does not further adversely affect a person or corporation nor unreasonably invade their privacy. Usually the Committee will contact the person or corporation that made the request and may also confer with the member who referred to the person or corporation in the Legislative Council. When the Committee and the person requesting the response have agreed on the response, the Committee reports that to the Council, and the Council usually agrees that the response be incorporated in Hansard, which is the public record of debates in Parliament
The Committee endeavours to deal quickly with each request, and will suggest changes if that is necessary to comply with the Standing Orders. It is not the role of either the President or the Committee to determine whether the original allegations made by the member or the contents of the proposed response are truthful.
Clear, concise requests should be made in writing and include –
- your name and contact details;
- a brief summary stating why you believe that you have been adversely referred to;
- the name of the Member of Parliament who adversely referred to you; and
- the date on which the adverse reference occurred.
Proposed responses must be succinct, strictly relevant to the questions in issue and not contain anything offensive in character.
Submissions should be sent to –
The President of the Legislative Council
PERTH WA 6000
If you require any advice regarding a proposed request, please contact the Clerk Assistant (House) on (08) 9222 7255
The relevant Standing Order is as follows –
113. Protection of Persons and Corporations Referred to in the Council
(1) Where a submission is made in writing to the President by a person or corporation who has been referred to in the Council by name, or in such manner as to be readily identified –
(a) claiming that the person or corporation has been adversely affected in reputation or in respect of dealings or associations with others, or injured in occupation, trade, office or financial credit, or that the person’s privacy has been unreasonably invaded, by reason of that reference to the person or corporation; and
(b) requesting that the person or corporation be able to incorporate an appropriate response in Hansard,
and the President is satisfied –
(c) that the subject of the submission is not so obviously trivial or the submission so frivolous, vexatious or offensive in character as to make it inappropriate that it be considered by the Procedure and Privileges Committee ("the Committee"); and
(d) that it is practicable for the Committee to consider the submission under this Standing Order,
the President shall refer the submission to the Committee.
(2) The Committee may decide not to consider a submission referred to it under this Standing Order if the Committee considers that the subject of the submission is not sufficiently serious or the submission is frivolous, vexatious or offensive in character, and such a decision shall be reported to the Council.
(3) If the Committee decides to consider a submission under this Standing Order, the Committee may confer with the person who made the submission and any Member who referred in the Council to that person or corporation.
(4) In considering a submission under this Standing Order, the Committee shall meet in private session.
(5) The Committee shall not publish a submission referred to it under this Standing Order or its proceedings in relation to such a submission, but may present minutes of its proceedings and all or part of such submission to the Council.
(6) In considering a submission under this Standing Order and reporting to the Council, the Committee shall not consider or judge the truth of any statements made in the Council or the submission.
(7) In its report to the Council on a submission under this Standing Order, the Committee may make either of the following recommendations –
(a) that no further action be taken by the Council or by the Committee in relation to the submission; or
(b) that a response by the person who made the submission, in terms specified in the report and agreed to by the person or corporation and the Committee, be incorporated in Hansard,
and shall not make any other recommendations.
(8) A document presented to the Council under paragraph (5) or (7) –
(a) in the case of a response by a person or corporation who made a submission, shall be succinct and strictly relevant to the questions in issue and shall not contain anything offensive in character; and
(b) shall not contain any matter the publication of which would have the effect of –
(i) unreasonably adversely affecting or injuring a person or corporation, or unreasonably invading a person’s privacy, in the manner referred to in paragraph (1); or
(ii) unreasonably adding to or aggravating any such adverse effect, injury or invasion of privacy suffered by a person or corporation.
(9) A corporation making a submission under this Standing Order is required to make it under its common seal.