The power of both Houses to punish for contempt is a general power similar to that possessed by the superior courts of law and is not restricted to the punishment of breaches of their acknowledged privileges . In other words a breach of privilege (an infringement of one of the special rights or immunities of a House or a Member) is by its very nature a contempt (an act or omission which obstructs or impedes a House, a Member or an employee of the House, or threatens or has a tendency so to do), but an action can constitute a contempt without breaching any particular right or immunity.
This chapter does not attempt to record the history of the development of the law, practice and procedure of privilege, nor does it attempt to treat in detail all questions of privilege that may arise.
It is limited to a general description and a summary of the more important aspects of the subject.
The powers, privileges, and immunities of the Senate and of the House of Representatives, and of the members and the committees of each House, shall be such as are declared by the Parliament, and until declared shall be those of the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom, and of its members and committees, at the establishment of the Commonwealth.
____________________ In the following sections, the principal rights and immunities of the House are described.
While they have been enjoyed since Federation by virtue of the provisions of section 49, Unquestionably, freedom of speech is by far the most important privilege of Members.
Members are absolutely privileged from suit or prosecution in respect of anything they might say in the course of proceedings in Parliament.
These rights and immunities allow the Houses to meet and carry out their proper constitutional roles, for committees to operate effectively, for Members to discharge their responsibilities to their constituents, and for others properly involved in the parliamentary processes to carry out their duties and responsibilities without obstruction or fear of prosecution.The Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary Privilege considered the issue of misuse of privilege.