The recording and publishing of speeches made in the Parliament of New Zealand has been official since 1867, when a staff of four reporters and an editor was appointed to report the proceedings of both Houses. In the earlier period, the only public record of speeches in Parliament were the rather scrappy – and sometimes unreliable – reports which were printed in various newspapers, and it was largely from these sources that five volumes were compiled to complete the record from the beginning of our Parliament in 1854 up to the year 1867.
In Britain at that time the speeches in both Houses of Parliament were printed and published in London by a private contractor, T. C. Hansard, under the title Hansard's Parliamentary Debates; hence parliamentary debates throughout most of the British Commonwealth are known as “Hansard”.
During the early development of the colony, some members felt that the publication of Hansard was an unnecessary extravagance, and from time to time motions for its abolition were debated in the House. When, however, the question was taken to a division on 6 August 1868, and again on 20 August 1884, the move to discontinue the report was decisively rejected.
Hansard does not contain all the words spoken in the House. Items of formal business are not referred to at all. Only a précis appears of the speeches made in Committee of Supply, and in Committee on Bills the report contains only motions proposed from the Chair. For those debates which are fully recorded, the duty of the reporting staff is to produce a report which, though not strictly verbatim, is substantially the verbatim report, with repetitions and redundancies omitted and with obvious mistakes corrected, but which on the other hand leaves out nothing that adds to the meaning of the speech.
At the present time this task is carried out by an editor and eight reporters, with two editorial assistants and a number of typists. The reporters, who are seated at tables on the floor of the House, make a shorthand record of speeches, taking turns of 10 minutes. A transcript is then dictated, and the typed copy is available within an hour. It is delivered to members for verbal correction, and must be returned within 24 hours for printing. Hansard is printed and published by the Government Printer, booklets containing several days' speeches being available from one to three weeks after the words are spoken.
by Charles Philip Littlejohn, LL.B., Clerk of the Journals and Records, House of Representatives, Wellington.