President of the Senate (Australia)

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President of the Senate
Sue Lines
since 26 July 2022
Australian Senate
StyleThe Honourable
AppointerElected by the Senate
Inaugural holderSir Richard Baker
Formation9 May 1901
DeputySenator Andrew McLachlan

The president of the Senate is the presiding officer of the Australian Senate, the upper house of the Parliament of Australia. The counterpart in the lower house is the speaker of the House of Representatives. The office of the presidency of the senate was established in 1901 by section 17 of the Constitution of Australia. The primary responsibilities of the office is to oversee senate debates, determine which senators may speak, maintain order and the parliamentary code of conduct during sessions and uphold all rules and orders of the senate. The current president is Sue Lines, who was elected on 26 July 2022.

The Senate elects one of its members as president at the start of each new term, or whenever the position is vacant. This is usually—though not necessarily—a member of the party or coalition that holds the most seats in the Senate. The largest party in the Senate is not always the governing party, as government is determined by the House of Representatives. The president of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives may consequently be from different parties.

The president of the Senate's primary task is to maintain parliamentary procedure in the chamber during legislative sessions. Unlike the speaker of the House, the president of the Senate votes as an ordinary member during general debate, and has no casting vote in the case of a tie (a casting vote would effectively give the president's state an extra vote). The president of the Senate has also various administrative and ceremonial duties, sharing responsibility for the management of Parliament House and other parliamentary facilities and services with the speaker of the House.


Constitutional provisions[edit]

Section 17 of the Constitution of Australia provides:[1]

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.[2]


Parliamentary duties[edit]

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. The president 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.

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.

Administrative duties[edit]

The Senate president is the chief executive of the Department of the Senate, which is one of the four parliamentary departments. The president chairs the department's budget committee and oversees its organisational structure. The president also co-administers the Department of Parliament Services (DPS) with the speaker of the House of Representatives.[3]

Ceremonial duties[edit]

The president of the Senate is ranked highly in the Commonwealth Table of Precedence, either before or after the speaker of the House of Representatives depending on seniority. The president participates in the state opening of parliament, represents the parliament on overseas visits, and receives visiting delegations from other countries (and other distinguished visitors).[3]


As with all other parliamentarians, the president of the Senate's salary is determined by the Remuneration Tribunal, an independent statutory body. As of 1 July 2019, the base salary for senators is A$211,242. The president is entitled to an additional "salary of office" comprising 75% of the base salary ($158,432), making for a total salary of $369,674 per annum and receives the various other entitlements and allowances available to senators.[4]

List of presidents of the Senate[edit]

The position of president of the Senate has been disproportionately held by senators representing the least populous states and territories. There have been 25 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 10 have come from the three most populous states (New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland). All Senate presidents have been members of major parties, though not necessarily the governing party.

No. Image Name Party State Term start Term end
1 Sir Richard Baker   Free Trade South Australia 9 May 1901 31 December 1906
2 (Sir) Albert Gould   Free Trade /
New South Wales 20 February 1907 30 June 1910
3 Harry Turley   Labor Queensland 1 July 1910 8 July 1913
4 Thomas Givens   Labor Queensland 9 July 1913 30 June 1926
  National Labor
5 Sir John Newlands   Nationalist South Australia 1 July 1926 13 August 1929
6 Walter Kingsmill   Nationalist Western Australia 14 August 1929 30 August 1932
  United Australia
7 Patrick Lynch   United Australia Western Australia 31 August 1932 30 June 1938
8 John Hayes   United Australia Tasmania 1 July 1938 30 June 1941
9 James Cunningham   Labor Western Australia 1 July 1941 4 July 1943
10 Gordon Brown   Labor Queensland 23 September 1943 19 March 1951
11 Ted Mattner   Liberal South Australia 12 June 1951 7 September 1953
12 (Sir) Alister McMullin   Liberal New South Wales 8 September 1953 30 June 1971
13 Sir Magnus Cormack   Liberal Victoria 17 August 1971 11 April 1974
14 Justin O'Byrne   Labor Tasmania 9 July 1974 11 November 1975
15 (Sir) Condor Laucke   Liberal South Australia 17 February 1976 30 June 1981
16 (Sir) Harold Young   Liberal South Australia 18 August 1981 4 February 1983
17 Doug McClelland   Labor New South Wales 21 April 1983 23 January 1987
18 Kerry Sibraa   Labor New South Wales 17 February 1987 31 January 1994
19 Michael Beahan   Labor Western Australia 1 February 1994 30 June 1996
20 Margaret Reid   Liberal ACT 20 August 1996 18 August 2002
21 Paul Calvert   Liberal Tasmania 19 August 2002 14 August 2007
22 Alan Ferguson   Liberal South Australia 14 August 2007 25 August 2008
23 John Hogg   Labor Queensland 26 August 2008 30 June 2014
24 Stephen Parry   Liberal Tasmania 7 July 2014 2 November 2017
25 Scott Ryan   Liberal Victoria 13 November 2017 13 October 2021
26 Slade Brockman   Liberal Western Australia 18 October 2021 26 July 2022
27 Sue Lines   Labor Western Australia 26 July 2022 Incumbent

Deputy President[edit]

Andrew McLachlan (Lib), deputy president of the Senate since July 2022

As well as a president, the Senate also elects a deputy president, whose formal title is Deputy President and Chairman of Committees. Until 1981, the title was just Chairman of Committees; it was changed "to reflect more accurately the nature of the office in practice". The position is not provided for by the constitution, but instead by the Senate's standing orders – it was borrowed more or less directly from the colonial legislative councils.[5] The deputy president's main tasks are to preside over committees of the whole and to serve as presiding officer when the president of the Senate is absent.[6][7]


There have been 36 deputy presidents of the Senate, two of whom served multiple non-consecutive terms.[8]

# Name Party State Term start Term end
1 Robert Best   Protectionist Victoria 9 May 1901 31 December 1903
2 William Higgs   Labor Queensland 16 March 1904 31 December 1906
3 George Pearce   Labor Western Australia 21 February 1907 13 November 1908
4 Henry Dobson   Anti-Socialist Tasmania 25 November 1908 30 June 1910
5 David O'Keefe   Labor Tasmania 1 July 1910 30 July 1914
6 George Henderson   Labor Western Australia 9 October 1914 30 June 1917
  National Labor
7 John Shannon   Nationalist South Australia 12 July 1917 30 June 1920
8 Thomas Bakhap   Nationalist Tasmania 21 July 1920 30 June 1923
9 John Newlands   Nationalist South Australia 5 July 1923 30 June 1926
10 William Plain   Nationalist Victoria 1 July 1926 30 June 1932
  United Australia
11 Herbert Hays   United Australia Tasmania 1 September 1932 23 September 1935
12 Burford Sampson   United Australia Tasmania 24 September 1935 30 June 1938
13 James McLachlan   United Australia South Australia 1 July 1938 30 June 1941
14 Gordon Brown   Labor Queensland 1 July 1941 22 September 1943
15 Ben Courtice   Labor Queensland 23 September 1943 1 November 1946
16 Theo Nicholls   Labor South Australia 6 November 1946 19 March 1951
17 George Rankin   Country Victoria 12 June 1951 30 June 1953
18 Albert Reid   Country New South Wales 8 September 1953 22 May 1962†
19 Gerald McKellar   Country New South Wales 7 August 1962 21 December 1964
20 Tom Drake-Brockman   Country Western Australia 16 March 1965 11 November 1969
21 Tom Bull   Country New South Wales 25 November 1969 30 June 1971
22 Edgar Prowse   Country Western Australia 17 August 1971 31 December 1973
23 James Webster   Country /
National Country
Victoria 5 March 1974 21 December 1975
Tom Drake-Brockman   National Country Western Australia 17 February 1976 30 June 1978
24 Douglas Scott   National Country New South Wales 15 August 1978 10 December 1979
25 Ron Maunsell   National Country Queensland 19 February 1980 30 June 1981
26 Doug McClelland   Labor New South Wales 20 August 1981 4 February 1983
27 David Hamer   Liberal Victoria 21 April 1983 30 June 1990
28 Mal Colston   Labor Queensland 21 August 1990 16 August 1993
29 Noel Crichton-Browne   Liberal Western Australia 17 August 1993 9 May 1995
30 Margaret Reid   Liberal ACT 9 May 1995 20 August 1996
Mal Colston   Independent Queensland 20 August 1996 6 May 1997
31 Sue West   Labor New South Wales 6 May 1997 30 June 2002
32 John Hogg   Labor Queensland 19 August 2002 25 August 2008
33 Alan Ferguson   Liberal South Australia 26 August 2008 30 June 2011
34 Stephen Parry   Liberal Tasmania 4 July 2011 6 July 2014
35 Gavin Marshall   Labor Victoria 7 July 2014 9 May 2016
36 Sue Lines   Labor Western Australia 30 September 2016 26 July 2022
37 Andrew McLachlan   Liberal South Australia 26 July 2022

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act - Sect 17
  2. ^ Senate Debates, 9 August 2005; 14 August 2007. In 2019 the Australian Greens again put forward another rival candidate
  3. ^ a b Senate Briefs: No. 6 - The President of the Senate, Parliament of Australia.
  4. ^ Senators' entitlements including remuneration, Parliament of Australia.
  5. ^ ANNOTATED STANDING ORDERS OF THE AUSTRALIAN SENATE Chapter 3 - Deputy President and Chairman of Committees: 9 Term of Office, Parliament of Australia.
  6. ^ ANNOTATED STANDING ORDERS OF THE AUSTRALIAN SENATE Chapter 3 - Deputy President and Chairman of Committees: 11 Duty of Chairman, Parliament of Australia.
  7. ^ ANNOTATED STANDING ORDERS OF THE AUSTRALIAN SENATE Chapter 3 - Deputy President and Chairman of Committees: 13 Absence of President, Parliament of Australia.
  8. ^ "Appendix 3―Deputy Presidents and Chairmen of Committees (1901–2009)". Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 10 September 2017.

External links[edit]