The official written record of what is said in the Australian Parliament is called Hansard. This fact sheet explores the role of Hansard, how it is produced and its history.
Hansard is an edited transcript—written record—of what is said in the Australian Parliament: in the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Federation Chamber and committee hearings. The people who work to create Hansard are called Hansard editors.
As well as informing people about parliamentary proceedings, Hansard is an important way of keeping Parliament open and accountable.
Parliamentary Audio Visual services (ParlAV) records what is said in the Senate, House and committee hearings. Hansard editors have rostered times at the Hansard desk in the chambers. They take notes of interruptions and descriptions of actions such as a member leaving or using a prop.
Although committees meet at Parliament House, they also travel all over Australia to discuss issues with many different people. For interstate committee hearings ParlAV staff transport, set up and operate up to 75 kilograms of recording equipment. Recordings are sent back to Hansard editors in Parliament House to be transcribed—written down—edited and published.
Editing and publishing
In the Hansard office, editors transcribe 5-minute blocks of audio—called a ‘turn’—using a variety of software applications, including audio playback and voice recognition. The voice recognition software is called ‘Dragon’. Each editor must ‘train their dragon’ to recognise their own voice as they repeat the words recorded in the chamber. The software then transcribes the editor’s spoken words into text.
A Hansard editor usually takes 30 to 45 minutes to edit a 5-minute turn. They check spelling, grammar and punctuation, and edit out mistakes and vocal tics like ‘um’ and ‘ah’. They use reference and style guides to ensure consistency. They also check all facts, including the names of people, organisations and places, historical facts, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander words. Quotes are also checked.
Members of parliament receive a draft version of their speeches and can suggest corrections. When all ‘turns’ for a day are complete, the proof—draft—Hansard is uploaded to the Australian Parliament House website. The proof is available online within 3 hours of the chamber finishing for the day. The proof is later checked and, if necessary, amended—changed—to become the official Hansard. Hansard also produces transcripts of special events, again using the audio recorded by ParlAV. These events include lectures, speeches and press conferences.
Hansard is named after the family of printers and publishers 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 House of Lords, although a record of the decisions made by the British Parliament was available to the public. It was thought that parliamentary debates should be kept private so that members of parliament would not be overly influenced by the opinions of their constituents.
In Australia, Hansard has reported the debates of the Australian Parliament since federation. Today, public scrutiny—close examination—of the Parliament is seen as an important part of our democracy.
A Hansard editor in the Senate.
David Foote/DPS Auspic
A female Hansard editor in the Senate sits at a desk and works on a computer.
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