About Hansard

From the second half of the 16th century the British Parliament prohibited all reporting and publishing of its proceedings. The Parliament believed it should deliberate in private and regarded any attempt to publicise its proceedings as a serious, punishable offence.

By the late 18th century dissension among more progressive members of Parliament, the growing weight of public opinion and the increasingly outspoken attacks of the press persuaded the Parliament to relax its stance.

In 1803 the House of Commons passed a resolution giving the press the right to enter the public gallery.

That same year William Cobbett, publisher of Cobbett's Weekly Political Register, added to his newspaper a supplement entitled Parliamentary Debates, which was a reprint of journalists' reports of speeches extracted from other newspapers.

In 1812 that publication was taken over by Cobbett's assistant, T. C. Hansard, who in 1829 changed the title of the reports to Hansard's Parliamentary Debates. By the late 1870s dissatisfaction with the accuracy of the report was being expressed. As a result Parliament voted Hansard the sum of £300 a year for shorthand assistance. The Hansard family continued to publish Parliamentary Debates until 1889.

Other publishers continued to print transcripts of the debates, until in 1909 the House of Commons took control of the reporting and printing of parliamentary debates.

It was during the 60 years of the Hansard family's publication that the name 'Hansard' became synonymous with the printed debates. In 1943 the British Parliament reinstated 'Hansard' in the title of its formal record.

Hansard in Victoria

For the first decade of the Parliament of Victoria's history reports of the debates of both houses were transcribed and published by the Argus newspaper. Called Victorian Hansard, they were of questionable accuracy and were often criticised.

On 23 June 1865 a motion that the transcription and printing of proceedings be supervised by the Parliament was carried in the Legislative Assembly. Three former Argus reporters were hired to form a Department of Victorian Parliamentary Debates. They began reporting on 12 February 1866 at the beginning of the first session of the fifth Parliament of Victoria (four decades before the Parliament in Westminster passed a similar motion).

In the early years the reports were still incomplete because of a shortage of suitably qualified staff. Gradually additional staff members were appointed and it became possible to publish the debates in full.

The bound volumes were officially entitled Parliamentary Debates but were always referred to by the colloquial name, Hansard.

Acknowledging the historical association and bowing to popular usage, 'Hansard' was incorporated in the title page of the official report of parliamentary debates in 1958.

Producing Hansard

The Hansard staff consists of a manager, (the unit head), an editor (Assembly) and an editor (Council), subeditors,reporters, publishing and IT officers, and a business support officer.

The unit uses a range of advanced technologies to produce Hansard. All staff have access to the digital audio recording of the proceedings of Parliament. The methods used to transcribe and edit speeches include computerised shorthand and voice-activated transcription, and keyboarding. Hansard also uses a modified form of Microsoft Word's word processing system and desktop publishing software in producing the official report.

Hansard is not a verbatim transcript of what is said in the chambers. Rather it is an accurate report of speeches devoid of redundancies, obvious grammatical errors, slips of the tongue and factual errors.

Daily Hansard, which is a proof version, is available on the internet 4 hours after the house adjourns for the day. Weekly Hansard, which comprises the revised dailies for the week, is available on the internet three working days after the end of the sitting week and in hard copy approximately one week afterwards. The books are later incorporated into bound sessional volumes.

The measure of the work of Hansard can be found in its printed output: between 1856 and 1866, the Argus published 11 volumes of Victorian Hansard; since 1866, Hansard has published 472 volumes of Parliamentary Debates.

Hansard is a bequest to and a resource for all Victorians.

Broadcasting

Hansard is responsible for broadcasting the proceedings of both houses of Parliament via webstreaming through the Parliament of Victoria website. The broadcasting staff comprises a broadcast coordinator, an audio visual supervisor, an audio visual officer, broadcast officers and audio monitors.

Parliamentary Committees

In addition to producing the record of parliamentary proceedings, Hansard provides transcription and broadcasting services to parliamentary committees.

Further reading

Burns, A. A., The Reporting of Parliamentary Debates, Government Printer, Melbourne, 1962.

Parliament of Victoria, The Parliament of Victoria and Parliament House, Government Printer, Melbourne, 1992.

Wright, R., A People's Counsel: A History of the Parliament of Victoria, 1856-1990, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1992.

Last Updated on Thursday, 07 November 2013