Sometimes a person or a corporation objects to a remark made about them by a member during a debate within the Assembly. For instance, a person might believe that their reputation has been damaged, or privacy violated, by what has been said in the chamber.
In these instances, a person or corporation is able to initiate a process called the citizens’ right of reply, which is permitted under the Assembly’s standing orders (Continuing resolution 4).
The process allows a person or corporation to request of the Speaker that a response is entered in the parliamentary record.
How does it work?
If a person or a corporation has been referred to in the Assembly by name or in terms that readily identify the person or corporation and that person/corporation believes that the reference adversely affects them, they are able to write to the Speaker seeking to have a response entered into the parliamentary record.
The Speaker is able to refer the matter to the Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure if it meets certain conditions. The Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure is the committee responsible for the internal administration of the Assembly. It is chaired by the Speaker and has members from the government, opposition and crossbench. For the matter to be referred to the committee, the Speaker must be satisfied that:
- the subject of the submission is not trivial, frivolous, vexatious or offensive, making it inappropriate for consideration by the Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure; and
- it is practicable for the Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure to consider the submission under the resolution; and
- the submission has been received within three months of the concerning statement. If there are exceptional circumstances, the Speaker may still allow the submission to be received.
Considering a submission
If the Speaker refers a submission to the Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure, the committee will again assess the matter against the conditions (above) and consider whether or not to proceed. If the committee decides not to consider the submission based on any of these grounds, it will report this to the Assembly.
If the committee decides to consider a submission, it is able to communicate with the person or corporation that made the submission and with any member who referred to the person or corporation in the Assembly.
The committee must consider the submission in a private session.
In considering a submission, the committee is not permitted to assess or to judge if there is any truth in any of the statements that have been made —either in the submission or in the Assembly.
Once the committee has considered the submission, it is able to make one of the following recommendations in a report to the Assembly:
- that no further action is to be taken by the committee or by the Assembly in relation to the submission; or
- that a specific and agreed response by the person or corporation who made the submission be published by the Assembly or incorporated in Hansard.
These are the only recommendations the committee may make.
A response presented to the Assembly must be succinct and strictly relevant to the issue. It must not be offensive, and the statement must meet strict requirements that are outlined in the standing orders.
- A person wishing to respond to a statement made about them in the Assembly should write a statement to the Speaker as soon as practicable, and preferably within three months.
- In the case of a corporation, a submission must be made under its common seal.
- To have the matter considered the person must be an Australian citizen or resident. In the case of a corporation, the corporation must be registered in Australia.
- Submissions must demonstrate that the person or corporation that has been named or is readily identifiable, has been the subject to a clear, direct and personal attack or criticism.
- Submissions should be concise, contain the statement that the complaint is about, and include a response to the statement. Submissions must not contain offensive material.
- A citizens’ right of reply only relates to comments made in the Assembly. It does not apply to comments made during committee proceedings. When a person or corporation takes exception to a statement made in committee proceedings, the matter should be referred to the chair of the relevant committee.
More information is in the standing orders Continuing resolution 4: Citizens’ Right of Reply.
Return to the resources page