Chapter 5 - Officers of the Senate: Parliamentary administration

Deputy President and Chair of Committees

The Deputy President and Chair of Committees is the President’s deputy and may take the chair in the Senate when requested by the President to do so, and is also the presiding officer in committee of the whole, presiding over committee proceedings in the chamber whenever a committee of the whole Senate is constituted (SO 11). Such a committee is formed for several purposes, but particularly for the detailed examination of legislation (SO 115(1)). When the committee is formed, the President leaves the President’s chair, and the Chair of Committees takes the chair at the table below, between the Clerk and the Deputy Clerk. The composition of the committee is the same as that of the Senate.

The Deputy President is also deemed to be the President for the purpose of the statutory functions of the President in the event of the President’s death, absence or incapacity (Parliamentary Presiding Officers Act 1965, ss 5-7).

The Deputy President and Chair of Committees exercises the same authority when presiding in the Senate or in committee as the President, but any disorder in committee may be dealt with only by the Senate, on receiving a report from the Chair (SO 144(7)).

The Deputy President takes the chair of the Senate whenever requested to do so by the President during a sitting of the Senate, without any formal communication to the Senate (SO 15(1)). The Deputy President must not remain in the chair of the Senate after the President enters the chamber (ruling of President Givens, SD, 24/6/1915, p. 4312). When the President is in the chamber the President must be in the chair, and cannot, in order to take part in debate in the Senate, put the Deputy President in the chair (ruling of President Givens, SD, 18/4/1918, p. 4021). Similarly, the Deputy President and Chair of Committees must be in the chair when in the chamber in committee of the whole.

The term of service and method of appointment of the Deputy President and Chair of Committees are the same as for the President (SOs 9 and 10).

Since 1981 there has been a practice, usually followed, whereby, if the President is a senator from the party supporting the government (which has invariably been the case since 1974), the Deputy President is chosen from the largest party not supporting the government.

The standing orders make no provision for the resignation of the Deputy President and Chair of Committees. Resignations in writing have been directed to the President (16/3/1965, J.222; 19/2/1980, J.1129; 9/5/1995, J.3235; 6/5/1997, J.1829). There is no reason for a resignation not being made orally in the Senate, but in some past cases the senators concerned have been appointed as ministers and it is obviously undesirable that a Deputy President should also hold ministerial office for a period until the Senate next meets.

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