The correct name please: 'The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia' or 'Parliament of Australia'?

Damien Trinne made this Freedom of Information request to Attorney-General's Department

The request was partially successful.

From: Damien Trinne

Delivered

Dear Attorney-General's Department,

One of my students asked me recently what is the correct name of Parliament?: 'The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia' or 'Parliament of Australia'?

The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act of 1900 (UK) refers to Parliament as the “Parliament of the Commonwealth” and has no mention of 'Parliament of Australia'

If it is now 'Parliament of Australia' when did his name change happen, and under what authority was it changed?

I thank you in advance

Yours faithfully,

Damien Trinne

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Locutus Sum left an annotation ()

I write this annotation because I do not think that you will get the answer from Attorney-General's Department. Mr Grey tried to make a request like this one and it did not work. I tried to explain the problem but it did not help Mr Grey (I got abuse https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/p... even maybe if it helped another users. Please may I also say that there are two reasons not to get a right answer. (1) Your request is not valid under the FOI Act, so Attorney-General's Department do not have obligations to try to answer your letter. (2) A valid request cannot help; the reasons are the same for Mr Grey.

Here is my comment. I have copied part of my annotating from the first webpage to this place .....

Chapter I, Part I, section 1 of the Constitution says, "The legislative power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a Federal Parliament, which shall consist of the Queen, a Senate, and a House of Representatives, and which is hereinafter called The Parliament, or The Parliament of the Commonwealth".

The idea of the parliament of Australia to have an official (legislated) title only of “The Parliament of the Commonwealth” is from the cause of reading this section 1 incorrectly. The word “hereinafter” means (by the Macquarie Dictionary), “afterwards in this document, statement, etc.” So a person must understand it in section 1 to say that there is Federal Parliament that has many parts and in the Constitution document it is nice to have some way simple to refer to the correct parliament (so no person makes it confused with the United Kingdom parliament or with a parliament of a colony), and the easy way is to say “The Parliament” or say “The Parliament of the Commonwealth”. It is possible then to see in many places where the Constitution has the words "The Parliament of the Commonwealth"; maybe sections 7 9, 14, 29, 51 and also more. But also there exist sections in the constitution where it says only "the Parliament" and not "Parliament of the Commonwealth"; also in section 5 it does not say "Commonwealth" at all; only it says "The Governor-General may appoint such times for holding the sessions of the Parliament as he thinks fit, and may also from time to time, by Proclamation or otherwise, prorogue the Parliament, and may in like manner dissolve the House of Representatives."

Please be patient with me. The Constitution also uses the words "Parliament of a Colony" in capital letters in many sections. Because of section 1 you can understand that if it does not say Parliament of the United Kingdom or the Parliament of a Colony and only "the Parliament" then the words are to refer about "a Federal Parliament, which shall consist of the Queen, a Senate, and a House of Representatives" as we can read in section 1.

Now to a second part for the explanation where Mr Grey got upset at me. If section 1 had said the words "hereafter to be known as the Parliament of the Commonwealth", then there would be a legislated name because "hereafter" is not in the document only (with "hereinafter"). It is forever. But we have only "hereinafter" and not "hereafter".

In many Acts of the parliament of Australia it says the words "Parliament of the Commonwealth" ; it is possible to seach the http://www.austlii.edu.au website and then to search only Commonwealth Consolidated Acts for "Parliament of Australia", also "Parliament of the Commonwealth". Then you can find the words in the many Acts for example Section 127 of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 (http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/sinodi.... Also it says only "Parliament of Australia" in many Acts. "Parliament of Australia" you can see in a preamble and in a long-title of an Act; but it is also in Act's main parts. You can see it in Superannuation Act 1922, Section 52 (http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/sinodi..., so it is not a new idea to say "Parliament of Australia" in the law.

You have asked Attorney-General's Department to tell you what is right but I think you can discover this is a crooked question. Your student can ask this question: what convention is to use "Parliament of the Commonwealth" and also what convention is it to say "Parliament of Australia". Also, the law might only say "the Parliament" when it cannot be a confusion (s1 of the Constitution). A student who uses http://www.austlii.edu.au to search for these words can learn the Australian conventions; not an "official" name.

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Ben Garrett left an annotation ()

Dear Locutus Sum,

I have been visiting this website for some period and I have found your annotations to be quite helpful, you seem to be an intelligent person with a broad knowledge of the FOI Act. If I may ask are you associated with the Right To Know Organisation? If so in what capacity perhaps for example you are a moderator. I have noticed that to date you are yet to make a Freedom of Information request yourself have you considered using your knowledge to make such a request?

Please don't construe this as a personal attack, although it appears that you are quite passionate with your belief's, as are some other people posting requests with this organisation on subjects that they are passionate about.

If people are not getting a response from their elected leaders on issues that they find of importance, as I have found from personal experience. Then the FOI Act gives some hope perhaps false that we may at least get a response to questions raised, regardless as to whether it is the response we were after at least there is some interaction.

I feel you are correct in that some requests made here are not made in the correct formal manner, although I feel that people become frustrated from a lack of response that they may or may not receive that this just increases suspicion. Although as mentioned above if our elected leaders took the time to reply to their constituents and were more open and transparent, then I feel people would begin to trust government somewhat.

Kind Regards

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Locutus Sum left an annotation ()

Mr Garrett, thank you. I am not so sure how much I should answer. My answer (and also your comment) would be better to appear on a blog than to be here on this page. But this request I think is the only place, so I will write my answer here.

I am not working for Right to Know as now you must see because I cannot write on the blog!

I agree with all your comments. They are very thoughtful and I have not seen the ideas written this way on any other page. A person wants her government to be more honest or "open" or "transparent". A person wants less vapour and more facts. Only a few Acts are for the people to have more control of the government. The FOI Act is an animal of this endangered species (!), and so a person tries to use the FOI Act to change the government. But the FOI Act is the same as other Acts. It is presciptive; it makes many demands on a person; it does not forgive mistakes by the applicant. Because of this, it does not work except for the thing exactly as it was designed. She can request one document or many documents. But she cannot say, "I have a question about the law. You are the law department so please answer my question". I think this is what Damien Trinne is asking.

Your comments have been good to remind me that an applicant can get very annoyed and frustrated. They also have caused me to think that my annotations maybe sometimes have too much discouragement. They say "Your request will not work", and "This is not a valid request". This is also a reason in my previous annotation on this request where I tried to explain how the student might discover the answer to her own question.

You also did not so much ask another question; why is there no request from Locutus Sum? I have my own questions and it would be possible to make requests. But I also am sure that the request would be refused and that I would disagree with the reasons! That is the first answer to your question. The second answer is because of the first. The Right to Know website works very well until a place where a person tries to ask for Information Commissioner Review. The request that was about the nomination documents for Terry Romaro's Order of Australia medal (https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/r... shows an example. There are many many things about that request which I could remark but the request is relevant here, in this place, because of the reply from the Office of the Information Commissioner (https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/r.... The reply says "Section 54N of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 says that in order to make a valid application for review a person must send us a copy of the decision they want reviewed with their application. A link to a website does not meet the requirements of the Act." By the Right to Know website, a person cannot make an attachment to the email, so a person cannot "send a copy of the decision" to the OAIC. She must go outside from Right to Know. I would not be happy with this idea and I do not want to be the first person who is trying to make an application for IC Review from outside Australia. It is legal but I think it would not work.

Note to administrator: My comment is very long and it is a comment about a comment about a comment. It would be much better for a blog. Is it possible to move my comment and the comment from Mr Garrett?

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From: FOI Requests
Attorney-General's Department

UNCLASSIFIED

Dear Mr Trinne

 

I refer to your request for access to information, received on 28 October
2013.  In your email you state:

 

"One of my students asked me recently what is the correct name of
Parliament?: 'The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia' or
'Parliament of Australia'? The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act
of 1900 (UK) refers to Parliament as the “Parliament of the Commonwealth”
and has no mention of 'Parliament of Australia'. If it is now 'Parliament
of Australia' when did his name change happen, and under what authority
was it changed?"

 

This email is to advise you that AGD has not registered your request as an
FOI request, as it is not a valid request under the FOI Act. This is
because your request is for 'information' and not for a document in AGD's
possession at the time of your request. I will outline more fully the
reasons for this below.

 

Reason that your request is not a valid FOI request

 

The right to request documents under the FOI Act is outlined in the
Guidelines published by the Office of the Australian Information
Commissioner (OAIC):

 

Section 11(1) of the FOI Act gives every person a legally enforceable
right to obtain access to a document of an agency or an official document
of a minister, unless the document is exempt. [para 2.1]

 

The right of access is to existing documents, rather than to information.
The FOI Act does not require an agency or minister to create a new
document in response to a request for access, except in limited
circumstances where the applicant seeks access in a different format (see
Part 8 of these Guidelines) or where the information is stored in an
agency computer system rather than in discrete form. [para 3.12]

 

The right of access applies to documents that exist at the time the FOI
request was made. [para 3.13]

 

Therefore, any general request for 'information' or 'data' that does not
already exist on AGD documents will be an invalid request.

 

The full Guidelines can be accessed on the OAIC's website at:
[1]http://oaic.gov.au/freedom-of-informatio...

 

Proposed action

 

While your request is not valid under the FOI Act, the following general
comments may be of assistance to you. The Constitution creates a federal
or national Parliament and refers to it as ‘The Parliament’ or ‘The
Parliament of the Commonwealth’ (see section 1 of the Constitution). The
terms ‘Commonwealth Parliament’, ‘Australian Parliament’, ‘Parliament of
Australia’ and ‘Parliament of the Commonwealth’ are sometimes used
interchangeably.

 

I trust this information is of assistance to you.

 

Kind regards,

 

Samantha Fuz

FOI Contact Officer

Attorney-General’s Department

 

 

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