Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives
The Speaker of the House of Representatives is the presiding officer of the House of Representatives, the lower house of the Parliament of Australia. The presiding officer in the upper house is the President of the Senate. The office of Speaker was created by section 35 of the Constitution of Australia. The authors of the Constitution intended that the House of Representatives should as nearly as possible be modelled on the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.
|Speaker of the House of Representatives|
(Formal and Diplomatic)
(Informal and within the House)
|Appointer||Elected by the House of Representatives|
|Term length||At the pleasure of the House|
Elected by the House at the start of each Parliament, and upon a vacancy
|Constituting instrument||Section 35 of the Constitution of Australia|
|Inaugural holder||Sir Frederick Holder|
9 May 1901
|Formation||9 July 1900|
|Deputy||Llew O'Brien (since 10 February 2020)|
The Speaker is the presiding officer of House of Representatives debates, determining which members may speak. The Speaker is also responsible for maintaining order during debate, and may punish members who break the rules of the House.
The office of Speaker is currently held by Tony Smith (Liberal) since 10 August 2015. The Deputy Speaker is Llew O'Brien (Liberal National), who was elected Deputy Speaker on 10 February 2020. If the Speaker is absent the Deputy Speaker becomes the Acting Speaker. The Second Deputy Speaker is Rob Mitchell (Labor).
The Speaker is elected by the House of Representatives in a secret ballot, with an election held whenever the Office of the Speaker is vacant, as set out in Chapter 3 of the House of Representatives Standing and Sessional Orders. The Clerk of the Australian House of Representatives conducts the election. The MPs who move and second the nomination of the successful candidate "drag" them to the chair after his election, in accordance with a tradition carried over from Westminster.
Unlike the Speaker of the House of Commons in Britain, the Speaker generally remains an active member of their party. If a party member, the Speaker will continue to attend party meetings, and at general elections will stand as a party candidate. There were two exceptions to this: the first Speaker, Frederick Holder (1901) and Peter Slipper (2011), who resigned from their respective parties upon election as Speaker, and sat as independents.
A Speaker ceases to hold that office if, for any reason, they cease to be a member of the House. There is no convention in Australia that the Speaker should not be opposed in their seat, and three Speakers have been defeated at general elections: Littleton Groom (1929), Walter Nairn (1943) and William Aston (1972). Because the Speaker is always the nominee of the governing party, there is no expectation that a Speaker will continue in office following a change of government. While the Opposition usually nominates one of its own members for Speaker after a general election, this is understood to be a symbolic act, and party discipline is always followed in any ballot.
By reason of section 40 of the Constitution, while in the Chair, a Speaker does not have a deliberative vote, but if there is a tie in votes, the Speaker has a tiebreaker vote.
Most Speakers have been senior backbenchers of the party holding office at the start of a new Parliament, or at the time of the death or resignation of an incumbent Speaker. Five Speakers have been former government ministers: William Watt, Littleton Groom, Archie Cameron, Ian Sinclair and Bronwyn Bishop; one a former Parliamentary Secretary: Stephen Martin; and one both a former minister and a former Leader of the Opposition: Billy Snedden. Two were former state premiers: Holder and Watt. There is no convention in Australia that Speakers should resign from Parliament at the end of their term; two Speakers have become Cabinet ministers after having been Speaker: Norman Makin and Gordon Scholes.
Bronwyn Bishop was elected Speaker on 12 November 2013, as the Coalition's first female Speaker of the House and the third female Speaker, after Labor's Joan Child (1986–89) and Anna Burke (2012–13). The 43rd Parliament (2010–13) was the first Australian federal parliament to have had three Speakers: Harry Jenkins (elected September 2010), Peter Slipper (November 2011), and Anna Burke (October 2012).
All male Speakers have been addressed by members as "Mister Speaker" while in the Chair. Joan Child chose to be addressed as "Madam Speaker", as female Speakers are usually referred to in other parliaments. Anna Burke broke with this tradition and ruled that her official form of address is merely "Speaker."
The Speaker's principal duty is to preside over the House and maintain order in the House, uphold Standing Orders (rules of procedure), rule on points of order, and protect the rights of backbench members.
Australian parliaments are notoriously rowdy, and the Speaker frequently exercises the disciplinary powers vested in them under Standing Orders. The Speaker may summarily order a Member to excuse themself from the House for one hour. For more serious offences, the Speaker may "name" a Member, saying "I name the Honourable Member for X," following the House's convention that Members are always referred to by their electorate. The House then votes on a motion to suspend the Member for 24 hours. (The House also had the power to permanently expel a Member, but this happened only once, in 1920: the member was Hugh Mahon. The House no longer has the power to expel a member from membership of the House under Section 8 of the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987.)
The Speaker, in conjunction with the President of the Senate, also administers Parliament House, Canberra, with the assistance of an administrative staff in the Australian parliamentary departments. The Speaker has accountability obligations to the Parliament for the Department of the House of Representatives.
A member of the House who wishes to resign would tender their resignation to the Speaker (but not to an Acting Speaker), or if there is no Speaker to the Governor-General. During the Joint Sitting of 1974 the Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives Jim Cope was the presiding officer.
While impartial, the Speaker does not usually quit the membership of their party like the Speaker of the House of Commons. Although the first Speaker, Sir Frederick Holder, resigned from the Free Trade Party upon taking the role in accordance with traditional Westminster convention, subsequent speakers did not follow this convention. The only other speaker to date who resigned from their party was Peter Slipper (who resigned from the Liberal Party the day after his election to the chair).
On the other hand, the Speaker is not an active political figure like the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. They do not take part in debates in the House, do not vote in the House except in the (rare) event of a tied vote, and do not speak in public on party-political issues (except at election time in their own constituency). They are expected to conduct the business of the House in an impartial manner, and generally do so.
There have been several memorable clashes between Speakers and the governments:
- In 1929 Speaker Littleton Groom declined to come into the House and cast a vote in committee when his vote would have saved the Bruce government from defeat. As a result, he was expelled from the Nationalist Party and defeated in his constituency at the subsequent election.
- In 1975 the Whitlam government refused to support Speaker Jim Cope when he named government minister Clyde Cameron for disrespect to the Chair: normally this would have resulted in the minister's suspension from the House. The Speaker resigned on the spot. This is the only occasion on which a Government failed to support a Speaker after a Member had been named.
- In 1982 Speaker Billy Snedden refused to insist that an opposition frontbencher, Bob Hawke, retract an allegation that the Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, was a liar. Snedden stood his ground despite furious demands from government members that Hawke either be made to retract or be named.
- In 2011, a Speaker survived being countermanded by the House. After a contentious debate on carbon pricing in which Speaker Harry Jenkins declared a "general warning" for all members, Liberal MP Bob Baldwin interjected and was named by the Speaker. The Government accordingly moved that he be suspended, but Baldwin was supported by the Coalition, independent MP Rob Oakeshott and WA Nationals MP Tony Crook. The resulting vote on suspending Baldwin for 24 hours failed 71–72. Convention would normally have required the Speaker to resign, but the House of Representatives immediately thereafter approved a motion of confidence in the Speaker, and as a consequence, Speaker Jenkins continued in office.
Speakers of or from opposition parties
While speakers normally come from the governing party, there have been several exceptions.
Peter Slipper was a member of the Liberal Party when elected as Speaker, but resigned a day later. Slipper's elevation to the speakership occurred due to the hung parliament resulting from the 2010 election, which saw the ALP form a minority government.
In the previous hung parliament elected at the 1940 election, the United Australia Party's Walter Nairn continued as Speaker when the ALP formed a new government in the middle of the parliamentary term.
At the 1913 election, Labor's Charles McDonald was offered retention of the Speakership by the incoming one-seat-majority Commonwealth Liberal Party, but declined – later however, after Labor's return to government at the 1914 election, McDonald regained the Speakership until the subsequent election in 1917 despite the mid-term change to a Nationalist Party government.
The speaker's salary is determined by the Remuneration Tribunal, an independent statutory body. As of 1 July 2019, the incumbent is entitled to a parliamentarian's base salary of A$211,250 plus an additional 75% loading, equating to a salary of approximately $369,700. Assuming they hold no other positions, the deputy speaker has a salary of $253,500 (20% loading), the second deputy speaker $238,700 (13% loading), and member's of the speaker's panel $217,600 (3% loading).
A member elected speaker is entitled to the title "The Honourable" while in office, which, with the approval of the Sovereign, may be retained for life. This privilege is usually only given to those who have served as speaker for at least three years. Harry Jenkins Jr. was the first speaker to ask that "The Honourable" title not be used in reference to him, while also making clear that he was not attempting to set a precedent for future speakers; he was simply not personally comfortable with the title.
Following the Westminster tradition inherited from the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, the traditional dress of the Speaker includes components of Court dress such as a black silk lay-type gown (similar to a Queen's Counsel gown), a wing collar and a lace jabot or bands (another variation included a white bow tie with a lace jabot), bar jacket, and a full-bottomed wig. The wig available for use by the speaker was used by Herbert 'Doc' Evatt when he was a High Court Justice (1930–1940) and was donated to the Parliament by Evatt when he was elected to the House in 1951. The wig is currently on loan from the speaker's office to the Museum of Australian Democracy. Another addition used by earlier speakers, though only for the most formal occasions, included court shoes and hose.
The dress of Speakers has often varied according to the party in power, but is determined on the personal choice of the Speaker. Most non-Labor Speakers have worn some variation of the traditional dress. All Labor Speakers have eschewed the traditional dress in favour of ordinary business attire as appropriate for a member of parliament, following the example set by their first Speaker, Charles McDonald.
Billy Snedden (1976–1983) was the last Speaker to wear the full traditional attire of the Speaker, complete with the wig. On the election of the Howard Government in 1996, the new Speaker, Bob Halverson, chose to wear the traditional court dress of the Speaker upon his election in April 1996, but without the wig. Speaker Ian Sinclair opted to wear a gown, albeit of a simpler academic style, during his brief term in 1998, a practice mirrored by his successors, Neil Andrew and David Hawker. Speaker Harry Jenkins resumed Labor practice from 2007 until the election of Peter Slipper in late 2011. Slipper went a step toward restoring the traditional dress by wearing a gown and bar jacket underneath his business attire. Slipper also took to wearing a white long tie or bow tie, in a variation from the lace jabot or bands. For example, he wore a wing collar with white bow tie and bands on the occasion of his first formal procession into parliament. Speaker Anna Burke resumed Labor practice after being elected to succeed Slipper in 2012. Speaker Bronwyn Bishop, the first non-Labor woman to hold the post, continued wearing business attire with no gown after the Abbott Government installed her in 2013. The incumbent speaker, Tony Smith, has likewise opted for business atire.
List of speakers of the House of Representatives
|#||Name||Party||State||Term start||Term end||Term in office|
|1||Frederick Holder||Independent||South Australia||9 May 1901||23 July 1909||8 years, 75 days|
|2||Carty Salmon||Commonwealth Liberal||Victoria||28 July 1909||19 February 1910||206 days|
|3||Charles McDonald||Labor||Queensland||1 July 1910||23 April 1913||2 years, 296 days|
|4||Elliot Johnson||Commonwealth Liberal||New South Wales||9 July 1913||30 July 1914||1 year, 21 days|
|(3)||Charles McDonald||Labor||Queensland||8 October 1914||26 March 1917||2 years, 169 days|
|(4)||Elliot Johnson||Nationalist||New South Wales||14 June 1917||6 November 1922||5 years, 145 days|
|5||William Watt||Nationalist||Victoria||28 February 1923||3 October 1925||2 years, 217 days|
|6||Littleton Groom||Nationalist||Queensland||13 January 1926||16 September 1929||3 years, 246 days|
|7||Norman Makin||Labor||South Australia||20 November 1929||27 November 1931||2 years, 7 days|
|8||George Mackay||United Australia||Queensland||17 February 1932||7 August 1934||2 years, 171 days|
|9||George Bell||United Australia||Tasmania||23 October 1934||27 August 1940||5 years, 309 days|
|10||Walter Nairn||United Australia||Western Australia||20 November 1940||21 June 1943||2 years, 213 days|
|11||Sol Rosevear||Labor||New South Wales||22 June 1943||31 October 1949||6 years, 131 days|
|12||Archie Cameron||Liberal||South Australia||22 February 1950||9 August 1956||6 years, 169 days|
|13||John McLeay||Liberal||South Australia||29 August 1956||31 October 1966||10 years, 63 days|
|14||William Aston||Liberal||New South Wales||21 February 1967||2 November 1972||5 years, 255 days|
|15||Jim Cope||Labor||New South Wales||27 February 1973||27 February 1975||2 years, 0 days|
|16||Gordon Scholes||Labor||Victoria||27 February 1975||11 November 1975||257 days|
|17||Billy Snedden||Liberal||Victoria||17 February 1976||4 February 1983||6 years, 352 days|
|18||Harry Jenkins Sr.||Labor||Victoria||21 April 1983||20 December 1985||2 years, 243 days|
|19||Joan Child||Labor||Victoria||11 February 1986||28 August 1989||3 years, 198 days|
|20||Leo McLeay||Labor||New South Wales||29 August 1989||8 February 1993||3 years, 163 days|
|21||Stephen Martin||Labor||New South Wales||4 May 1993||29 January 1996||2 years, 270 days|
|22||Bob Halverson||Liberal||Victoria||30 April 1996||3 March 1998||1 year, 307 days|
|23||Ian Sinclair||National||New South Wales||4 March 1998||31 August 1998||180 days|
|24||Neil Andrew||Liberal||South Australia||10 November 1998||31 August 2004||5 years, 295 days|
|25||David Hawker||Liberal||Victoria||16 November 2004||17 October 2007||2 years, 335 days|
|26||Harry Jenkins Jr.||Labor||Victoria||12 February 2008||24 November 2011||3 years, 285 days|
|27||Peter Slipper||Independent||Queensland||24 November 2011||9 October 2012||320 days|
|28||Anna Burke||Labor||Victoria||9 October 2012||12 November 2013||1 year, 34 days|
|29||Bronwyn Bishop||Liberal||New South Wales||12 November 2013||2 August 2015||1 year, 263 days|
|30||Tony Smith||Liberal||Victoria||10 August 2015||Incumbent||5 years, 358 days|
Assistants to the speaker
The House selects two of its members to serve as deputy speaker and second deputy speaker. The speaker also nominates a number of other MPs as assistants, who form the speaker's panel. In order for business to proceed, the House may choose any member to take the chair if the speaker is absent and the previously deputised members are unavailable; this is rare. Any member chairing the House in the absence of the speaker or deputy speakers is addressed as "Acting Deputy Speaker". However, only the deputy and second deputy speakers can serve as "acting speaker", with the full powers of the position.
The position of deputy speaker was created in 1994 in place of the former position of "chairman of committees", which had existed since the first parliament in 1901. This coincided with the establishment of the Main Committee (now renamed the Federation Chamber). As with the speakership, the deputy speakership is usually held by a government MP. The deputy speaker has the same procedural powers as the speaker while in the chair, including signing messages from the House to the Senate. As well as deputising for the speaker, the deputy speaker chairs the Federation Chamber.
The current deputy speaker is Llew O'Brien, who was elected to the position on 10 February 2020. Unusually, the government's nominee was defeated in the election, with O'Brien – nonetheless a government MP – winning election with the support of the opposition and a small number of government defectors.
List of deputy speakers and chairmen of committees
The title of the office was originally "chairman of committees". This was changed to "deputy speaker and chairman of committees" on 3 November 1992 and to simply "deputy speaker" on 21 February 1994. The terms of deputy speakers technically coincide with terms of parliament, however for the purposes of the table below terms spanning multiple parliaments are deemed to be continuous. Prior to 10 July 1907 the chairman of committees was elected on a sessional basis.
|#||Name||Party||State||Term start||Term end||Term in office|
|1||John Chanter||Protectionist||New South Wales||5 June 1901||22 October 1903||2 years, 139 days|
|2||Carty Salmon||Protectionist||Victoria||17 March 1904||21 December 1905||1 year, 279 days|
|3||Charles McDonald||Labor||Queensland||20 June 1906||19 February 1910||3 years, 244 days|
|4||Alexander Poynton||Labor||South Australia||1 July 1910||23 April 1913||2 years, 296 days|
|5||James Fowler||Liberal||Western Australia||9 July 1913||30 July 1914||1 year, 21 days|
|(1)||John Chanter||Labor||New South Wales||9 October 1914||6 November 1922||8 years, 28 days|
|6||Fred Bamford||Nationalist||Queensland||28 February 1923||3 October 1925||2 years, 217 days|
|7||James Bayley||Nationalist||Queensland||14 January 1926||16 September 1929||3 years, 245 days|
|8||Charles McGrath||Labor||Victoria||20 November 1929||27 November 1931||2 years, 7 days|
|9||George Bell||United Australia||Tasmania||17 February 1932||7 August 1934||2 years, 171 days|
|10||John Prowse||Country||Western Australia||23 October 1934||21 June 1943||8 years, 241 days|
|11||Bill Riordan||Labor||Queensland||22 June 1943||16 August 1946||3 years, 55 days|
|12||Joe Clark||Labor||New South Wales||7 November 1946||31 October 1949||2 years, 358 days|
|13||Charles Adermann||Country||Queensland||22 February 1950||14 October 1958||8 years, 234 days|
|14||George Bowden||Country||Victoria||17 February 1959||7 March 1961||2 years, 18 days|
|15||Philip Lucock||Country||New South Wales||8 March 1961||2 November 1972||11 years, 239 days|
|16||Gordon Scholes||Labor||South Australia||28 February 1973||27 February 1975||1 year, 364 days|
|17||Joe Berinson||Labor||Western Australia||27 February 1975||14 July 1975||137 days|
|18||Harry Jenkins Sr.||Labor||Victoria||19 August 1975||11 November 1975||84 days|
|(15)||Philip Lucock||National Country||New South Wales||17 February 1976||10 November 1977||1 year, 266 days|
|19||Clarrie Millar||National Country||Queensland||21 February 1978||4 February 1983||4 years, 348 days|
|20||Les Johnson||Labor||New South Wales||21 April 1983||19 December 1983||242 days|
|21||Joan Child||Labor||Victoria||28 February 1984||11 February 1986||1 year, 348 days|
|22||Leo McLeay||Labor||New South Wales||11 February 1986||29 August 1989||3 years, 199 days|
|23||Ron Edwards||Labor||Western Australia||29 August 1989||8 February 1993||3 years, 163 days|
|24||Harry Jenkins Jr.||Labor||Victoria||4 May 1993||29 January 1996||2 years, 270 days|
|25||Garry Nehl||National||New South Wales||30 April 1996||8 October 2001||5 years, 161 days|
|26||Ian Causley||National||New South Wales||12 February 2002||17 October 2007||5 years, 247 days|
|27||Anna Burke||Labor||Victoria||12 February 2008||19 July 2010||2 years, 157 days|
|28||Peter Slipper||Liberal||Queensland||28 September 2010||24 November 2011||1 year, 57 days|
|(27)||Anna Burke||Labor||Victoria||24 November 2011||9 October 2012||320 days|
|29||Bruce Scott||National||Queensland||9 October 2012||9 May 2016||3 years, 213 days|
|30||Mark Coulton||National||New South Wales||30 August 2016||5 March 2018||1 year, 187 days|
|31||Kevin Hogan||National||New South Wales||26 March 2018||10 February 2020||1 year, 321 days|
|32||Llew O'Brien||Liberal National||Queensland||10 February 2020||Incumbent||1 year, 174 days|
Second deputy speaker
The position of second deputy speaker was created in 1994, primarily as an assistant to the deputy speaker in the Federation Chamber. The standing orders of the House state that only a non-government MP may be elected to the position. The runner-up in the election for the deputy speakership is deemed to have been elected second deputy speaker. This procedure caused difficulty in the deputy speakership election held on 10 February 2020, in which both the winner Llew O'Brien and the runner-up Damian Drum were government MPs.
List of second deputy speakers
|#||Name||Party||State||Term start||Term end||Term in office|
|1||Allan Rocher||Liberal||Western Australia||3 March 1994||29 January 1996||1 year, 332 days|
|2||Harry Jenkins Jr.||Labor||Victoria||30 April 1996||17 October 2007||11 years, 170 days|
|3||Bruce Scott||National||Queensland||12 February 2008||9 October 2012||4 years, 240 days|
|3||Steve Georganas||Labor||South Australia||10 October 2012||5 August 2013||299 days|
|4||Rob Mitchell||Labor||Victoria||12 November 2013||Incumbent||7 years, 264 days|
The speaker's panel consists of at least four MPs nominated by the speaker at the start of each parliament. The speaker may nominate additional members or revoke membership at any point during the parliament. Members of the panel are called on to chair meetings of the House at the request of the speaker, as well as meetings of the Federation Chamber at the request of the deputy speaker or second deputy speaker. A roster is maintained so that the chair can always be filled. Members of the panel will relinquish the chair to the speaker or deputy speaker "if disorder arises or if special circumstances apply".
Historically, the speaker has nominated both government and opposition MPs to the speaker's panel. However, after the 2010 and 2013 elections opposition members refused to serve on the panel. The practice resumed later in the 2013–16 parliamentary term.
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