Parliamentary committees are established for different purposes and by different methods. Three are established by statute and are made up of members of both Houses. They are the Public Works, Public Accounts and Subordinate Legislation Committees. Other Standing Committees are appointed to regulate some of the functions of the Parliament joint committees, e.g. House and Library Committees, and select committees of the House of Assembly, e.g. Standing Orders, Privileges and Printing Committees.

From time to time the House sees the need to appoint a select committee to inquire into a specific matter and report back to it. Generally such a report would be the basis for future legislation in the area investigated by the committee. These committees can be select committees of the House only or joint select committees made up of members of both Houses.

Parliamentary Privilege

Parliamentary privilege is defined by the practice of the House of Commons and the Parliamentary Privilege Act and amendments. It relates to the rights and immunities which are necessary to allow Parliament to meet and carry out its proper constitutional role.

The principal powers relating to the application of privilege are:

  • The right of free speech in Parliament.
  • Immunity of members from legal proceedings for anything said by them in a speech in the course of debate in the House.
  • Immunity from arrest and imprisonment for civil causes whilst attending Parliament.
  • Exemption of members from jury service.
  • Immunity of parliamentary witnesses from being questioned or impeached for evidence given before the House or its committees.
  • The power to order the arrest and imprisonment of persons guilty of contempt of Parliament or breach of privilege.

The purpose of parliamentary privilege is to enable members to carry out their duties in the knowledge that certain protections exist so they may not be unduly constrained in their role as representatives of the people.


Speaker entering House
The Speakers procession makes their way to the Chamber at the start of each sitting day.

The principal officer of the House is the Speaker. A member is elected to that position by the House and it is his or her responsibility to preside over the proceedings and enforce the Standing Orders and Rules. The Speaker is also the representative of the House in dealings with the Governor and with the Legislative Council.

The Speaker must carry out his or her duties with strict impartiality. All members look to the Speaker for guidance in matters of procedure and the Speaker rules on points of order from the Chair.

The office of Speaker dates back to 1377 in the House of Commons. At that time the role of Speaker was to convey the resolutions of the House to the King. The position has been a precarious one at times with several Speakers having lost their lives while carrying out their duties. Between the 14th and 16th centuries several were beheaded by the King. The modern role of Speaker was developed in the 18th century. Established during that period were the high standards of political independence, non-partisanship and concern for the individual member and minority groups which today are taken for granted as essential prerequisites for the office of Speaker.

The Speaker is assisted in his or her duties by the Chair of Committees, who takes the Chair as Deputy Speaker when required to do so by the Speaker.


Clerk of the House

The Clerk of the House is the principal permanent officer of the House of Assembly. It is his or her responsibility to advise the Speaker and other members on procedural matters, as well as to keep the journals of the House, i.e. the Votes and Proceedings, and the Notices of Motion and Orders of the Day.

The Clerk acts as Chair of a meeting prior to the election of a Speaker. The Clerk is required to certify the passing of bills and ensure they are correct when delivering them to the Legislative Council. The Clerk also has custody of all papers and accounts presented to the House.

The other principal permanent officers are the Deputy Clerk, the Clerk-Assistant, Second Clerk-Assistant and Clerk of Papers.






The Parliamentary Reporting Service, more commonly known as Hansard, was set up in Tasmania in 1979. The role of Hansard is to record and publish the debates of both the House of Assembly and Legislative Council and their committees. The Tasmanian system is tat the debates are digitally recorded are then typed, edited and given to the members for their perusal, and then published via the Parliament's internet page -

Hansard is a valuable service for the public as it enables them to follow the parliamentary debates and to assess the performance of their representatives in Parliament.



The Parliamentary Library was established in 1852. Its principal function is to provide members and officers of Parliament with information they need in connection with their Parliamentary duties. Initially the Clerk of the House of Assembly was Librarian until the mid-1900s when the State Library provided the services of full-time staff. More recently the Tasmanian Parliament assumed the administration of the Library and responsibility for the staff. The present Library premises have been occupied since 1980.

The information gathered for members of Parliament is obtained from the Library's own collection, other parliamentary libraries and other external sources. A significant part of the Library's work is media monitoring. An extensive newspaper clippings file dating from the early 1970s is now available electronically. More recently, monitoring of radio and television current affairs programs has taken place.

Several in-house databases have been generated to help provide speedy access to information and to assist with the management of resources. In 1990 the Parliamentary Research Service was established to provide more in-depth research for members.