Queensland state MPs are not obliged to talk to a new Senate inquiry into the Newman government, an estimates committee has heard.

A Senate inquiry into the Queensland state government might not receive evidence from any of its members or officials.

The Palmer United Party has received Senate backing for an inquiry to report by March 2015 into alleged corruption and other aspects of the government of Premier Campbell Newman.

A Senate estimates hearing was told on Monday that there was no obligation for Newman government members to front the inquiry.

Senate Clerk Rosemary Laing said in the case of a 1992 inquiry into the Victorian state government the committee had been advised not to compel witnesses because it could set an unwanted precedent.

There was a strong principle that houses of parliament did not interfere with each other and were not subject to the supervision of each other, she said.

If this was to be tested in the courts it could limit the Senate’s powers, which “would not be a useful thing for the Senate”.

Instead, the Senate sends “messages” to a state parliament if it wishes the attendance of state MPs.

In the Victorian inquiry case, the state parliament declined the invitation.

However Dr Laing said that sometimes members of other parliaments saw it “in their interests to explain their positions” before Senate inquiries.

She could not recall an inquiry whose scope had been as broad as the PUP’s inquiry.