Annual Harry Evans Lecture: Justified immunity or unfinished business?

Date & time

12.15–1.15pm Friday 1 December 2017



Parliament House, Canberra


Bret Walker SC


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Senate Procedure Office
02 6277 3074
Public lecture
Harry Evans

The appropriateness of parliamentary and executive immunities in the 21st century

In this lecture Bret Walker will address two related issues that Harry Evans himself consistently regarded as vital to the healthy operation of the Houses, and especially the Senate.

The first involves the informing principles and correct focus of that aspect of parliamentary privilege articulated in Article 9 of the Bill of Rights. Is there unfinished business in relation to the prohibition on the impeaching or questioning in any court or place out of Parliament of the freedom of speech or debates or proceedings in Parliament? What ought now be foreseen as occasions that might be dangerous for the continued vigour of senatorial scrutiny of the Executive, as a result of judicial decision?

The second involves the proper limits of a chamber’s powers to compel the provision of information including the production of documents. In particular, is the virtual immunity from production of so-called Cabinet documents well-founded, or expedient?

The Harry Evans Lecture commemorates the service to the Senate of the longest serving Clerk of the Senate, Harry Evans. This annual lecture will focus on matters championed by Mr Evans during his tenure as Clerk including the importance of the Senate as an institution, the rights of individual senators and the value of parliamentary democracy.


  • Bret Walker »

    Bret Walker has been a barrister practising at the NSW Bar since 1979 and was appointed Senior Counsel in 1993 and Queen’s Counsel in 1994. He is a Foundation Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law. He has at various times been President of the Law Council of Australia, President of the NSW Bar Association, a member of a number of advisory committees to the Australian Law Reform Commission, a Commissioner of Inquiry to a number of NSW Commissions of Inquiry and editor of the New South Wales Law Reports. He was the inaugural Independent National Security Legislation Monitor in 2011-2014. He was leading counsel for the NSW Legislative Council in Egan v Willis, an important authority on partliamentary privilege.

    Bret’s practice centres on general appellate advocacy, equity and commercial, administrative aand commercial law.

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