Opinion Number. 1864

Subject

NORTHERN TERRITORY LEGISLATIVE COUNCILPOWER OF NORTHERN TERRITORY LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL TO REGULATE ITS PROCEEDINGS: POWER OF LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL TO HOLD SECRET PROCEEDINGS AND TO PROHIBIT DISCLOSURE OF PROCEEDINGS

Key Legislation

NORTHERN TERRITORY ADMINISTRATION ACT 1910 ss 4R, 4T

Date
Client
The Secretary, Department of the Interior

I refer to your memorandum dated 4th May, 1949, regarding the question asked by the Administrator of the Northern Territory as to prohibition of the publication of proceedings of secret sessions of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory.

(2)  Subject to section 4R of the Northern Territory (Administration) Act which requires the Council to keep minutes and forward a copy to the Minister, the proceedings, the publication of any record of the proceedings of the Legislative Council are, in my view, matters for the Legislative Council itself. This follows from its inherent powers as a legislative body, to which reference is made in the case mentioned in the Acting Secretary’s memorandum to you on 26th April last, and also from section 4T of the Act which empowers the Council to make standing rules and orders with respect to the order and conduct of its business and proceedings.

(3)  The power to regulate its own proceedings includes power, I think, to exclude strangers and, in the exercise of this power, all persons other than members and staff may be excluded from a session of the Council, and the disclosure of proceedings by members and staff may be prohibited. Disclosure by the press and others of proceedings could be prohibited by Ordinance.

(4)  Although as stated above, the matter of secret proceedings is, in my opinion, one for the Council in the exercise of its own discretion, I would mention that, in the case of the Commonwealth Parliament, the power to hold secret sessions has been rarely exercised, and then only during the recent war and for purposes strictly relating to defence.

[Vol. 38, p. 357]