President of the Australian Senate

President of the Senate
The Hon Stephen Parry

since 7 July 2014
Appointer Elected by the Australian Senate
Inaugural holder Sir Richard Baker
Formation 9 May 1901
Deputy Senator Sue Lines
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The President of the Australian Senate is the presiding officer of the Australian Senate, the upper house of the Parliament of Australia. The presiding officer of the lower house, the House of Representatives, is the Speaker.

The Australian Senate is modelled on the Senate of the United States and occupies a different position in the Australian Parliament from that of the House of Lords in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Senate has always been a popularly-elected body.

Since 7 July 2014, the President has been Stephen Parry (Lib, Tas). The Deputy President is Sue Lines (ALP, Vic).

Constitution provisions

Section 17 of the Constitution provides:

The Senate shall, before proceeding to the despatch of any other business, choose a senator to be the President of the Senate; and as often as the office of President becomes vacant the Senate shall again choose a senator to be the President. The President shall cease to hold his office if he ceases to be a senator. He may be removed from office by a vote of the Senate, or he may resign his office or his seat by writing addressed to the Governor-General.


The President is elected by the Senate in a secret ballot. The Clerk conducts the election. The Presidency has always been a partisan office and the nominee of the government party has nearly always been elected—although this cannot be guaranteed since the government of the day does not necessarily have a majority in the Senate. The President is assisted by an elected Deputy President. The traditional practice has been that the government nominates a Senator to be elected as President, and the Opposition nominates a Senator to be Deputy President. If there are no other nominations, no election is required, however the Australian Greens in 2005 and again in 2007 put forward Senator Kerry Nettle as a rival candidate when the position of President was vacant. Neither Government nor Opposition Senators supported that candidacy.[1]

The position of President has been disproportionately held by Senators representing the least populous states and territories. There have been 24 presidents of the Senate since 1901. Of these 15 have come from the least populous states (Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania) or the Australian Capital Territory, and 9 have come from the three most populous states (New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland).

Following the election of the Howard government at the 1996 election, Labor's Mal Colston became an independent MP and Deputy President of the Senate.


Unlike the Speaker the President has a deliberative, but not a casting vote (in the event of an equality of votes, the motion fails). This is because the Senate is in theory a states' house, and depriving the President of a deliberative vote would have robbed one of the states or territories one of its Senators' votes.


The President's principal duty is to preside over the Senate, to maintain order in the Senate, uphold the Standing Orders (rules of procedure) and protect the rights of backbench Senators. He or she is assisted by the Deputy President and a panel of Acting Deputy presidents, who usually preside during routine debates.

Although the President does not have the same degree of disciplinary power as the Speaker does, the Senate is not as rowdy as most Australian legislative chambers, and thus his or her disciplinary powers are seldom exercised.

The President, in conjunction with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, also administers Parliament House, Canberra, with the assistance of administrative staff. The President has accountability obligations to the Parliament for the Department of the Senate.

List of presidents of the Senate

# Name Party, State Term in Office
1 Hon. Sir Richard Baker FT-AS, SA 9 May 1901 to 31 December 1906
2 Hon. (Sir) Albert Gould AS-Lib, NSW 20 February 1907 to 30 June 1910
3 Hon. Harry Turley ALP, Qld 1 July 1910 to 8 July 1913
4 Hon. Thomas Givens ALP-Nat, Qld 9 July 1913 to 30 June 1926
5 Hon. Sir John Newlands Nat, SA 1 July 1926 to 13 August 1929
6 Hon. Walter Kingsmill Nat-UAP, WA 14 August 1929 to 30 August 1932
7 Hon. Patrick Lynch UAP, WA 31 August 1932 to 30 June 1938
8 Hon. John Hayes UAP, Tas 1 July 1938 to 30 June 1941
9 Hon. James Cunningham ALP, WA 1 July 1941 to 4 July 1943 (died in office)
10 Hon. Gordon Brown ALP, Qld 23 September 1943 to 19 March 1951
11 Hon. Ted Mattner Lib, SA 12 June 1951 to 7 September 1953
12 Hon. (Sir) Alister McMullin Lib, NSW 8 September 1953 to 30 June 1971
13 Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack Lib, Vic 17 August 1971 to 11 April 1974
14 Hon. Justin O'Byrne ALP, Tas 9 July 1974 to 11 November 1975
15 Hon. (Sir) Condor Laucke Lib, SA 17 February 1976 to 30 June 1981
16 Hon. (Sir) Harold Young Lib, SA 18 August 1981 to 4 February 1983
17 Hon. Doug McClelland ALP, NSW 21 April 1983 to 23 January 1987
18 Hon. Kerry Sibraa ALP, NSW 17 February 1987 to 1 February 1994
19 Hon. Michael Beahan ALP, WA 1 February 1994 to 20 August 1996
20 Hon. Margaret Reid Lib, ACT 20 August 1996 to 19 August 2002
21 Hon. Paul Calvert Lib, Tas 19 August 2002 to 13 August 2007
22 Hon. Alan Ferguson Lib, SA 14 August 2007 to 25 August 2008
23 Hon. John Hogg ALP, QLD 26 August 2008 to 7 July 2014
24 Hon. Stephen Parry Lib, Tas 7 July 2014 to present

See also


  1. Senate Debates, 9 August 2005; 14 August 2007.
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