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Records of the Parliament

Fact Sheet – Records of the Parliament [PDF 175kb, 1 page]

Official records are kept of everything that is said and done in Parliament. They include Hansard, Journals of the Senate and Votes and Proceedings. Anyone can check these records to see what is being said about a bill (proposed law) or issue and to find out about decisions made by the Parliament. As well as informing people about its work, these records are an important way of keeping Parliament open and accountable.

Hansard

Hansard is an edited transcript (written record) of what is said in the Senate, House of Representatives, Federation Chamber and committee hearings (public meetings). Its official title is Parliamentary Debates. Hansard records the spoken word, such as members' speeches and witness statements made to committees. It also includes votes, the text of petitions, ministers' written statements and answers to questions. Speeches are edited to remove repetition and grammatical errors but not so as to change meaning.

Hansard is named after the family who produced the record of British 'parliamentary debates' from 1812 to 1889. Up until the late 18th century it was illegal to report what was said in either the House of Commons or the Lords, although a record of the decisions made by the Parliament was available to the public. It was thought that parliament's deliberations, or discussions, should be kept private because otherwise members of parliament might be too influenced by the opinions of their constituents. Today, however, public scrutiny of the Parliament is seen as an important part of our democracy.

In 1803 William Cobbett started publishing 'Parliamentary Debates', which reproduced newspaper reports of speeches made in Parliament. After Thomas Curson Hansard took over the publication in 1812, he changed the title to 'Hansard's Parliamentary Debates' and employed reporters to cover chamber proceedings. While both the British and Australian Parliaments have assumed responsibility for reporting and printing parliamentary debates, these records are still referred to as Hansard.

Hansard is available to view online at: www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Hansard

Journals of the Senate and Votes and Proceedings

Official records are also kept about the actions and decisions made by the Parliament. In the Senate this record is called the Journals of the Senate and in the House of Representatives it is called Votes and Proceedings. Unlike Hansard, they record what is done by each chamber rather than what is said by individual members of parliament. For example, they list the bills introduced and who introduced them, every vote held and how each member of parliament voted, as well as documents tabled in (presented to) the chamber. The Standing Orders, or rules, of both the Senate and House of Representatives state that the Clerk in each chamber must keep and publish these records (see Standing Orders). The Journals of the Senate and Votes and Proceedings are legal records that provide the most accurate information about the activities of the Parliament.

Journals of the Senate are available to view online at: http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Chamber_documents/Senate_chamber_documents/Journals_of_the_Senate

Votes and Proceedings are available to view online at: http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Chamber_documents/HoR/Votes_and_Proceedings

Other publications

Several other documents are available online that detail the daily work of the Parliament and provide up-to-the-minute reports of what is happening in the Parliament.

For the House of Representatives, these documents can be found at: http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Chamber_documents/HoR

For the Senate, these documents can be found at: http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Chamber_documents/Senate_chamber_documents