How to Write Government Submissions

Government submissions are an important part of our Constitutional Democracy.

In my time as a human rights advocate and lobbyist across 15 years, I have made over 16 submissions to five State Parliaments and several submissions to our Federal parliament's pertaining to slavery, exploitation, women's rights, children's rights, organ harvesting, on behalf of persecuted minorities and so much more!

There are several instigators to Parliaments in Australia making new laws.

Laws are sometimes instigated directly by Parliamentarians.

They may be aware of issues which arise from either their knowledge and experience of a particular law which needs amending or introduction, or, more likely, their constituents bring these matters to them personally in private meetings in the offices of the Members of Parliament.

Members of Parliament may introduce laws through a Private Member's Bill, or simply by instigating an amendment to an existing law through Parliamentary Council.

Parliamentary Inquiries

The main purpose of a parliamentary committee is to inquire into a topic and report back to the Parliament. Most inquiries have terms of reference, which set out the scope of the inquiry. The terms of reference will be available on the committee’s website.

When a committee conducts an inquiry, it will try and find out the facts of a case or issue, gather and sift through evidence provided to it in writing or in person, and will draw conclusions which will be published in a report.

When a Parliamentary Council sets up a specific Committee, they are doing this for two specific reasons:

  1. To call for Submissions as a form of consultation

  2. To call for recommendations to discuss what cadges need to be brought about.

As part of an inquiry, a committee usually asks for written submissions addressing the terms of reference. The terms of reference for each inquiry are on the committee's website. Contact the relevant committee secretariat for further information.

Committee inquiries are part of the formal work of the Parliament.

There are strict rules on the form and content of a submission. Submissions must:

  • be prepared solely for the purposes of the inquiry

  • not have been published anywhere else

  • be relevant to the terms of reference

  • be received by the committee before the due date

  • include the name, postal or email address, and contact number of the person or organisation making the submission.

You can participate in an inquiry by:

  • making a written or spoken submission and providing it to the committee, and

  • attending a public hearing or briefing as a witness to give oral evidence.

Committees may also do an online survey, have a roundtable, or talk face to face to experts in hearings. You can read published submissions and listen to public hearings, or read the transcript, through the committee website.

Who Can Make a Submission

Anyone interested individual or organisation can make a submission to a parliamentary committee. Several people or organisations can make a joint submission.

Organisations and people from other countries can make submissions to an inquiry, however, protections under parliamentary privilege cannot be enforced outside Australia.

Writing a submission:

When preparing a Parliamentary Submission, it is important to note:

  • clearly address some or all of the terms of reference—you do not need to address each one

  • are relevant and highlight your own perspective

  • are concise, generally no longer than four to five pages

  • begin with a short introduction about yourself or the organisation you represent

  • emphasise the key points so that they are clear

  • outline not only what the issues are but how problems can be addressed, as the committee looks to submissions for ideas to make recommendations

  • only include documents that directly relate to your key points

  • only include information you would be happy to see published on the internet.

Submissions are usually written documents, but they can be pictures or short videos. There is no set format for submissions. Submissions can contain facts, opinions, and recommendations. They can address some or all of the terms of reference. Submissions should draw on your particular knowledge or experience of the issues.

Useful submissions make a clear argument, contain recommendations for action, and provide sources for any references. If the submission is more than a few pages long it is helpful to include a table of contents and a summary.

During an inquiry, additional evidence or comment can be provided to the committee through a supplementary submission.

We will remove personal details such as email addresses from a submission before publishing it on the website. If possible, include personal details in a cover letter rather than the body of the submission.

Given the sensitive nature of some inquiries, please ensure that the names and identifying details of other people, particularly children, are not included in your submission. If you would like your submission to be private, you can request it be accepted on a confidential basis.

Attachments and supporting documents can be sent with your submission. If the document you are attaching has already been published - for example, a journal article or newspaper article, the committee may call it an ‘exhibit’ or correspondence. It is important that you state clearly if any of your attachments or supporting documents should be taken as confidential.

You may also include hyperlinks and references to other documents. Please include full web addresses, as hyperlinks may be removed before publication.

Submissions which make allegations or comment negatively about another organisation or person will take longer to be considered by a committee. The organisation or person you refer to may be given your submission and the opportunity to respond.

Submissions should not include discriminatory content, foul or offensive language, or refer to matters currently before a court.

How to Lodge a Federal Parliament Submission

Submissions can be lodged online via a link on the inquiry home page. First, create a My Parliament account. This account can be used again for future submissions and also for tracking committees, inquiries and bills. You will need to provide your name and a valid email address to create a My Parliament account.

More information about online submissions is available at:

Submissions can be uploaded as a Word document, a PDF, or in plain text format. You can upload multiple documents: for example, a covering letter, public submission and a confidential attachment.

If the submission is by an organisation, we publish the organisation as the author of the submission, not an individual. Please let us know prior to publication if that is not correct. An acknowledgement will be sent to the email address you provide confirming receipt of your submission.

Submissions can also be sent directly by email or post. Individual committee addresses are available on the Australian Parliament’s website.

If you cannot make a submission by the deadline, it may sometimes be possible for a short extension of time. Please contact the committee’s secretariat to ask for an extension.

The Process of a submission

Once the submission has been received, it is assessed by the secretariat. You may receive confirmation that it has been accepted and published, or that there are issues with your document that need to be resolved.

You can check the webpage to see if your submission is online, or contact the secretariat. You can ‘track’ the inquiry by visiting the inquiry webpage and clicking the ‘track inquiry’ button and entering your details.

After assessing the submission, the committee decides whether to accept it and authorise its publication. The committee can also decide to only publish part of a submission.

Once a submission is accepted and authorised for publication, personal details are removed and the document is placed on the website. It then forms part of the formal record of the inquiry.

If you are unsure about the status of your submission, please check with the committee secretariat.

Your protections

The presentation or submission of a document to a committee is privileged under the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987. This means that a person is immune from legal action in respect of lodging the submission or any statements contained in it.

If a submission is authorised by a committee for publication, its distribution is also immune from legal action.

It is an offence to improperly influence anyone from making a submission, or threaten anyone for making a submission.

What happens to my submission?

  • The committee will decide whether to accept your submission.

Your submission will be given to the committee members to read. The committee will decide whether to accept your submission and whether to publish it.

Your submission is not automatically accepted and published. Due to high workload, the committee may take several weeks to consider and process your submission.

You should read the terms of reference and structure your submission around these. The committee may decide not to accept your submission if it does not address the terms of reference.

You will be told whether or not the committee has accepted your submission.

  • If your submission is accepted it may be published on the internet with your name.

If accepted, most submissions are published on the committee's website with the name of the submitter.

If your submission is published, the information in it, including your name can be searched for on the internet. Your contact details will not be published on the website. You cannot withdraw or alter your submission once the committee has published it.

If you want to change your submission or tell us something else, you can send a supplementary submission.

The committee may refer to your submission in its report. Committee reports are published on the committee's website and can be searched for on the internet.

  • You can ask the committee to keep your submission private.

If you do not want your name published on the internet, or if you want your submission to be kept confidential, you should:

  • include the word confidential clearly on the front of your submission and provide a reason for your request.

  • make sure that your name and contact details are on a separate page and not in the main part of your submission.

Confidential submissions are only read by members of the committee and the secretariat.

Confidential information may be placed in an attachment to the main part of your submission, with a request for the committee to keep the attachment confidential.

The committee will consider your request but you need to know that the committee has the authority to publish any submission. The secretariat will contact you if the committee wants to publish something you have asked to be kept confidential.

If you are considering making a confidential submission, you should contact the committee secretariat to discuss this before you send us your submission.