The Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly have different procedures for tabling papers.
Papers tabled in the two houses generally fall into five main categories —
- reports, such as annual reports, which are required by statute to be laid before both houses of Parliament
- subsidiary legislation, such as regulations, rules, by-laws, local laws and other regulatory instruments that are required to be tabled under the Interpretation Act 1984 or other written law
- reports of a parliamentary nature, such as committee reports, government responses to committee reports and reports on overseas travel
- papers tabled by ministers or parliamentary secretaries during debates and
Statutory requirement imposed on ministers
It is commonplace for a statute to impose a requirement on a minister to have a particular document 'laid before both houses of Parliament', or in other words, to have the document tabled in both houses. A minister can choose to have the document tabled in the Legislative Assembly in one of two ways.
The first, and most frequently used method, is for the document to be provided by the minister’s office to the Parliamentary Services Branch of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet with instructions for the document to be tabled. The Department of the Premier and Cabinet then collates all the documents ahead of the day’s sitting with instructions before delivering them to the Legislative Assembly Office. At the time the Speaker calls for papers, the Clerk reads the list of papers, before the Speaker says, 'Papers tabled'. A parliamentary officer will then physically, and ceremoniously, tap the bundle of documents on the table of the house. The documents are then regarded as tabled.
The second method a minister may use for tabling a document is to rise and say, 'I now table [the document]'. It is not uncommon for a minister who has a statutory obligation to table a particular report, and, if the report itself is of public interest, to make a brief ministerial statement about the report and then table the report at the conclusion of the minister’s speech.
Statutory requirement imposed on Speaker
The Speaker has tabling obligations in respect of the following acts —
- Financial Management Act 2006
- Freedom of Information Act 1992
- Inspector of Custodial Services Act 2003
- Members of Parliament (Financial Interests) Act 1992
- State Records Act 2000.
Reports of a Parliamentary nature
Committee reports are tabled by the Chair of Committees, or a person authorised on the committee’s behalf.
Government responses to committee reports can be tabled by the relevant minister via either of the two methods outlined under the subheading above 'Statutory requirement imposed on ministers'.
Reports on overseas travel by the office of the Speaker are tabled by the Speaker.
In the Legislative Assembly, a minister can table any document with or without a statutory requirement to do so.
In the Legislative Assembly, the Speaker can table any document with or without a statutory requirement to do so.
In the Legislative Council the President, ministers and parliamentary secretaries table documents in relation to their portfolio responsibilities and in their capacity of representing ministers in the Legislative Assembly.
At the start of the sitting the President calls for papers to be tabled, at which point the Leader of the House, ministers in order of cabinet seniority and parliamentary secretaries stand and table papers. The President tables papers from statutory officers defined by legislation or considered to be officers of the Parliament, independent of executive government. These include reports from the Auditor General and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administrative Investigations (Ombudsman), the Commissioner for Children and Young People, the Parliamentary Inspector of the Corruption and Crime Commission and the Inspector of Custodial Services. The President tables papers prior to ministers and parliamentary secretaries.
In addition, standing order 20 enables the presentation of papers during the course of proceedings by —
- the President, a minister or a parliamentary secretary who may present a paper in the course of related business or at any time when other business is not before the Council
- other members, by leave, may present a paper in the course of related business
- a committee Chair or other member nominated by a committee for this purpose may present a committee report at any time when other business is not before the Council.
The Parliamentary Counsel’s Office (PCO) drafts the vast majority of delegated legislation, including regulations, local laws, by-laws, rules, ordinances and orders-in-Council, and provides the Legislative Assembly Office and the Legislative Council Administration Office with a list of delegated legislation to be tabled each sitting day. The PCO coordinates this important process. Delegated legislation that is not tabled within six sitting days after gazettal ceases to operate at the expiry of those six days.
The parliamentary officer in each house responsible for tabled papers prepares a list each sitting day. This sets out the subsidiary legislation and other papers to be tabled during formal business at the commencement of each sitting day. Each tabled paper is entered into a database.
Reports and papers received by the houses’ respective offices are held under embargo until the Clerk (Legislative Assembly) has presented, or minister or parliamentary secretary (Legislative Council) has tabled, the report or paper. Tabled papers are public documents and may be viewed and downloaded by members and the public from the website, or a hard copy can be provided on request.
Generally, the Parliamentary Services Branch of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet makes arrangements for tabling papers in both houses upon the request of ministers. It requires a written request signed by the minister’s chief of staff or executive officer, 12 hard copies, and an electronic version (PDF) of the paper, to be tabled. These should be submitted by the minister’s office a minimum of one day prior to the day on which the paper is required to be tabled.
Exceptions to these arrangements include tabling errata (error in printing or writing) and tabling documents from agencies that report directly to Parliament. Agencies reporting directly to Parliament should ensure the cover letter of the report or paper for tabling provides details on the legislation that enables them to table in these particular circumstances. Twelve hardcopies (five to the Legislative Council and seven to the Legislative Assembly) of the report and an electronic version (PDF) should also be provided to the relevant administration office in the houses (the Legislative Assembly Office or the Legislative Council Administration Office).
Ministers have several options available to them in order to rectify errors in reports and other documents.
The minister may write to the relevant Presiding Officer/s, advising that an error has occurred in the report, necessitating a correction to be made. The letter needs to identify the original report and exactly where the error occurred (section and page number) and attach a copy of the correction. The relevant Presiding Officer will then inform the house that they have authorised for the correction to be attached to the original tabled paper; or
- the minister may table an erratum page in respect of the report. If this process is undertaken, the document will be treated as a separate tabled paper and will be linked to the original paper; or
- the minister may table a new version of the report.
Please note: Notwithstanding the above, the original report that was tabled (which contains the error, or may have been tabled in error), is not removed from the public record, or otherwise altered. Thus, even if a replacement report is tabled, it is still possible for a member of the public to request and obtain a copy of the original (tabled) report.
Ministerial or departmental officers overseeing this process should contact the Legislative Assembly Office or Legislative Council Administration Office to discuss the process and most suitable course of action in the circumstances.
An annual Public Sector Commissioner circular on annual reporting sets out the requirements to be met by agencies in the preparation of their annual reports.
In addition, the circular advises that agencies should follow the guidelines set out in the 'Annual reporting framework' which is updated each year and is available on the Public Sector Commission website.
When an annual report has been approved by the relevant minister for tabling in Parliament, a covering memorandum signed by the chief of staff or executive officer should be forwarded to the Parliamentary Services Branch of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet with 12 copies of the report included.
At the same time, an electronic copy of the report in Adobe Acrobat PDF format must be lodged by the relevant agency with the Parliamentary Services Branch.
When the annual report is tabled in Parliament, a PDF version will be published on the tabled papers database and will be available on the Parliament’s website.
Agencies are responsible for ensuring that the PDF document they provide is identical to the document tabled in Parliament.
PDF files should be marked up to enable easy navigation from the main headings in the table of contents to the page in the document.
The PDF file should be written at screen resolution.
The make-up, timing and presentation requirements for annual reports to Parliament are covered by sections 61–64 of the Financial Management Act 2006.
There are a number of ways to obtain a copy of a tabled paper:
- hardcopies of recently tabled papers are available in the Legislative Assembly Office and in the Legislative Council Administration Office; and
- electronic copies of tabled papers are available from the Tabled Papers section of the Parliament website.