Information Sheet 18 - Tabling of Reports and Documents
In order to ensure that information is available to Members of Parliament and the public, reports and documents are required to be presented or ‘tabled’ in Parliament. These include reports of government departments and public bodies, and documents such as planning schemes and statutory rules. These documents are usually tabled within specified reporting periods, to provide information on matters such as:
- financial transactions;
- operations and activities;
- outcomes of investigations;
- amendments to planning schemes; and
- operative dates of Acts.
The tabling of reports and documents is an essential component of Executive accountability (the Executive is comprised of the Victorian Government – the Premier and his/her Ministers – and its administrative arm, the Victorian Public Service). By providing an account of government spending and other activities, the reports and other documents tabled in the Legislative Council contribute to ensuring the maintenance of responsible government.
Under the Council’s Standing Orders, documents may be presented to the Council:
- by Command of the Governor;
- by leave; or
- pusuant to statute.
Command of the Governor
The Governor orders that certain reports are tabled in the House. These are reports by Judges of the Supreme, County, Magistrates’ and Children’s Courts. They are required under their respective Acts to report annually to the Governor in respect of their operations. Other reports include Royal Commissions and Boards of Inquiry where the Governor has ordered that they report within the agreed terms of reference.
Tabled by leave
Reports and documents not required to be tabled may still be tabled in the Council if leave is granted. A member may put forward a motion requesting the leave of the Council to table a document not otherwise required to be tabled pursuant to statute. If leave is granted and the motion is passed, the document may be presented to the House. Because this agreement is required, such Papers are said to be ‘presented by order of the Council’.
Pursuant to Statute
The majority of reports and documents are tabled under an Act of Parliament. It is a legislative requirement for government departments and public bodies to prepare certain reports and documents and table them within specific time frames.
How Reports and Other Documents are tabled
Command of the Governor
Documents that are ordered to be tabled by the Governor are presented by a Minister who requests that the report or document be tabled.
In the case of documents tabled by leave, a Minister must formally move a motion requesting the tabling.
Under the House’s Standing Orders, a document required to be presented pursuant to Command of the Governor, or by Order of the Council, is ordered to lie upon the Table. If the motion is agreed to, copies of the report or document are then available from the Table Office.
These types of reports and documents appear on the Council’s daily programme which is prepared by the Clerk.
This programme, commonly referred to as the Daily Blue, is available from the Table Office.
Pursuant to Statute
In order to table a report or (document) pursuant to statute, the following must occur:
The Minister or other delegated person responsible for the department, area or activity must write to the Clerk requesting that the document be tabled. This is referred to as the ‘tabling letter’.
The Clerk must also receive a copy of the report to be tabled. This is referred to as the ‘tabling copy’ and, along with the ‘tabling letter’, forms part of the ‘Original Papers’ of Parliament.
Copies of the report are simultaneously delivered to the Table Office and, once tabled, are publicly available.
Reports and other documents which are tabled pursuant to statute appear on the ‘Papers List’ which is prepared by the Table Office.
What is the Papers List?
The ‘Papers List’ is the official document which lists alphabetically all of the documents which are to be tabled pursuant to statute on each sitting day. The Clerk reads out this document in the House.
A copy of the Papers List is distributed to each Member and appears in both the Minutes of the Proceedings of the Legislative Council and Hansard.
When are Reports and Other Documents tabled?
Reports and other documents are tabled on a sitting day during ‘Formal Business’. Formal Business is conducted on Tuesday after Question Time at approximately 3.00 p.m. and on Wednesday and Thursday after ‘Messages’ at approximately 9.35 a.m. If the Council sits on a Friday, Formal Business occurs at the commencement of the sitting day.
All reports and documents form part of the Original Papers. The Clerk keeps custody of all records and documents belonging to the Council.
Can Members speak on a Report or Other Documents?
After a report (or document) is tabled, Members of the Council may speak on it during ‘Statements on Reports and Papers’ on the Thursday of each sitting week. Precedence is given for up to 60 minutes for Members to make such statements; however, they must give at least one day’s notice of their intention to do so.
The reports or other documents proposed for discussion each Thursday are listed on the Notice Paper.
Members are limited to a maximum of five minutes when making such statements. Although each Member may speak in relation to more than one report or document, they may propose only one item for discussion each sitting week.
Can Reports and Other Documents be tabled when the House is not sitting?
There are provisions in certain Acts for reports to be released when Parliament is not sitting. Once the Clerk receives the report, each Member of the Council must be advised that the report is available upon request. The report must still be formally tabled on the next sitting day.
The following is a summary of the types of reports and other documents that are commonly tabled in the Legislative Council:
Victorian Government departments and public bodies are required to prepare annual reports of their operations at the end of each financial year pursuant to section 46 of the Financial Management Act 1994. The requirement to table a report only applies when a public body’s expenses and obligations exceed $5 million.
If the public body’s expenditure is below this amount, it is only required to present the report to the Minister responsible for its administration. The Minister must then notify the Clerk of receipt of the report and this notification forms part of the document which is tabled.
Parliamentary Committee Reports
Parliamentary Committees investigate and report on issues of interest to the Government and Parliament (See: Information Sheet No. 6 – Committees). Pursuant to section 35 of the Parliamentary Committees Act 2003, committee reports are presented to the House by the Chair or a member of that particular committee.
Under the Legislative Council’s Standing Orders, the Member of the committee tabling the report may move a motion without notice that the Council take note of the report and they can then speak on this motion without time limits (according to current sessional orders).
A report can also be ‘ordered to be printed’ as a Parliamentary Paper. Some reports are automatically accepted as a Parliamentary Paper while others require prior written approval from the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly to obtain that status. These documents are protected by parliamentary privilege which means no legal action can be taken against those publishing these reports. Examples of Parliamentary Papers include reports of Parliamentary Committees, the Auditor-General, Ombudsman and Public Advocate. Parliamentary Papers are numbered successively for the duration of each Parliamentary Session. In accordance with the Standing Orders, the Council may order that any document presented and laid before it be printed as a Parliamentary Paper, although most reports tabled do not end up being Parliamentary Papers.
Amendments to planning schemes of local and regional areas are approved by the Minister and tabled under the Planning and Environment Act 1987.
Proclamations state when Acts or parts of Acts commence operation after being passed by Parliament and are printed in the Government Gazette.
Prepared by: Table Office
Department of the Legislative Council
Parliament of Victoria
Reissued June 2009
- Last Updated: Friday, 21 May 2010 16:25