How will social media affect parliamentary privilege?

A man in a black suit looks to his right while leaning on an ornate box. A microphone and papers are infront of him. People sit in green tiered seating behind him.

A member speaking at the Despatch Box in the House of Representatives.

DPS Auspic

A member speaking at the Despatch Box in the House of Representatives.

A man in a black suit looks to his right while leaning on an ornate box. A microphone and papers are infront of him. People sit in green tiered seating behind him.

DPS Auspic

Description

A member of the opposition appeals to the Speaker of the House of Representatives. He is speaking at the Despatch Box. 

Thanks for your question, Danielle. Many members of parliament use social media and the Australian Parliament has considered the issue.

Parliamentary privilege is legal protection given to members of parliament and witnesses appearing before parliamentary committees to ensure they cannot be sued or prosecuted for anything they say or do during parliamentary proceedings.

In 2013, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ms Anna Burke MP, made a ruling on social media and parliamentary privilege, stating ‘… any comments made on social media, even if made from the chamber precincts, are not covered by parliamentary privilege.’

Similar principles are likely to apply in the Senate.

A statement made by a member of parliament on social media is considered to be the same as if, for example, they were speaking at a press conference or to the media, rather than speaking in parliamentary proceedings.