House debates

Tuesday, 22 June 2021


3:18 pm

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Last Tuesday the honourable member for Clark raised a matter of privilege in connection with a recent interlocutory judgement of the Federal Court of Australia in an action bought by the Registered Clubs Association of New South Wales against Mr Troy Stolz. The basis of the member's concern is that the judgement granted leave to ClubsNSW to obtain correspondence between Mr Stolz and the member's office, including emails, text messages and documents. The member for Clark stated that these materials had been relied upon by him to speak in the House of Representatives chamber on 13 February 2020, and thereby there was a direct link between the materials covered by the court decision and the member's contributions in parliamentary proceedings. The member has urged that the parliament intervene to assert the protection of parliamentary privilege in the proceedings before the court.

Section 16 of the Parliamentary Privileges Act provides protections for proceedings in parliament, which means all words spoken and acts done in the course of, or for the purposes of or incidental to the transacting of the business of the House. It is acknowledged that the courts have a role in interpreting what is included in proceedings in the parliament—in particular, the scope of the term 'for the purposes of, or incidental to the transacting of the business of the House'.

In the present case, the honourable member for Clark has not presented detailed information which might lead me to be satisfied there is prima facie evidence of a contempt or a breach of privilege. Nevertheless, I am willing to give precedence to a motion for a matter concerning privilege or contempt in relation to the circumstances raised by the member to be referred to the Standing Committee of Privileges and Members' Interests. In my opinion, the House would benefit from the advice of the committee on this matter.