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150th anniversary of the Queensland Parliament's Hansard

Hansard 150th anniversary logo

The history of the Queensland Parliament's official record of debates

The Parliament’s official record of debates, which is commonly referred to as ‘Hansard’, was established 150 years ago in 1864.

During the period of Queensland’s first Parliament, from May 1860 to September 1863, there was no official record of debates. Newspaper reports about parliamentary proceedings that were published in the Moreton-Bay Courier serve as a primary source of what occurred during this first Parliament, however, these reports only covered the speeches and debates that the newspaper judged to be significant or newsworthy. Members were dissatisfied that their speeches were either not reported or by the manner in which they were reported.

It is believed that these complaints from Members about the Moreton-Bay Courier’s reporting resulted in the moves to establish an official record of debates during the first year of Queensland’s second Parliament. The key dates and events in the establishment of the official record are outlined below.

Queensland’s second Parliament first sat on 26 April 1864 and from this date onwards the Parliament’s two short-hand writers took notes of proceedings. At this time there was no official plan outlined for what would happen with these notes. The short-hand writers were Arthur E. Deighton who had commenced employment with the Parliament on 1 July 1860 and Charles Haynes Barlee who had commenced employment with the Parliament on 1 March 1861.

On 13 May 1864, Speaker Gilbert Eliott tabled a ‘Report of the Standing Orders Committee’ which recommended a scheme for an official record of the Debates in Parliament. The plan outlined in this report was for the short-hand writers to take notes of sittings and for funds to be allocated to pay these staff to transcribe their notes when the Parliament was next in Recess and for them to then be published by the Government Printing Office. For the period before the Recess, the short-hand writers’ notes were to be made available for Members to review and correct. It was reported in the Moreton-Bay Courier that soon after the tabling of this report, a resolution was adopted by both houses supporting the recommendations of the Standing Orders Committee’s report.

On 25 August 1864, the Parliament approved the Supplementary and Additional Estimates which included provision for an official record of debates in Parliament. The budget allocation was the amount recommended in the May Standing Orders Committee report of £300 for additional salaries for the Parliament’s two short-hand writers to transcribe their notes during the recess and £230 pounds for the printing of Parliamentary Reports by the Government Printing Office.

On 13 September 1864, the Parliament was prorogued and then in recess until 10 January 1865. The short-hand writers’ notes for the period 26 April to 13 September 1864 were transcribed and published as a bound volume during this four month break.

From 1864 onwards, bound volumes of Queensland Parliament’s Hansard have been published at the end of each parliamentary session. These contain detailed indexes of speeches and debates that assist searches for speeches on certain topics or given by specific Members.

It is reported that Queensland was the third Parliament in the world to establish and publish Hansard reports, with Canada’s provincial Nova Scotia Parliament being the first and the South Australian colonial Parliament being the second, commencing their Hansard in 1857.

After the establishment of Queensland's Hansard in 1864, there were a number of significant historical achievements that are briefly outlined below.

In 1874, a Queensland Parliament select committee of inquiry recommended that the existing Hansard reports be supplemented by publication of the daily proceedings in the form of a broadsheet, to be printed by the Government Printer and circulated as a supplement in the colony’s newspapers.

On 13 January 1876, the Parliament appointed its first Chief Hansard Reporter, Mr William Senior. Senior was an experienced reporter from England and is credited with instituting in 1878 the daily record of proceedings for the Legislative Assembly and weekly record for the Legislative Council.

Queensland has the distinction of being the first jurisdiction in the world to issue a daily official report of debates of a Legislature without any form of government censorship.

(The British House of Commons first published its own official reports of debates in 1909. From the latter half of the 18th century until 1909, records of debates in the House of Commons were based on newspaper reports. These reports were initiated by Thomas Hansard, leading to the reporting of Parliament gaining the term ‘Hansard’.)

In 1996, Queensland Hansard was published electronically with electronic searching of material available from 1990 onwards.

In January 1997, daily reports of Queensland Hansard were first published on the Parliament’s newly created Internet site.

In 2010, a historical project to digitise the newspaper reports of parliamentary proceedings from the Moreton-Bay Courier from 1860-1863 was completed with these reports published on the Parliament’s website.

Since 2010, an on-going project has been in place to digitise and publish online all Hansard records from 1864-1989. This project was completed for the 150th anniversary of the formal establishment of Queensland’s official record of debates on 25 August 2014.

This sesquicentenary anniversary was marked by a function in the Legislative Council Chamber, hosted by the Speaker of the Queensland Parliament, Hon. Fiona Simpson MP. As well as announcing the completion of the Hansard digitisation project, the Speaker launched a permanent display about the history of Queensland's Hansard, that features significant parliamentary speeches from Queensland's past 150 years.