Chapter 5 - Officers of the Senate: Parliamentary administration

Absence of President and Deputy President

If the President is absent at the commencement of a sitting of the Senate, the Clerk informs the Senate, and the Deputy President takes the chair. The Deputy President then performs the duties and exercises the authority of President in relation to all proceedings of the Senate until the next meeting of the Senate, provided that, if the Senate adjourns for more than 24 hours, the Deputy President acts for the President for 24 hours only after the adjournment, unless the Senate otherwise provides (SO 13).

When it is known that the President will be absent from the sittings of the Senate for longer than one sitting, it is the practice to empower the Deputy President by motion to perform the duties and exercise the authority of President during such an absence. Where appropriate the President announces a forthcoming absence in advance and a motion is then moved to empower the Deputy President to act. This procedure obviates the necessity for the daily announcement by the Clerk of the President’s absence.

If both the President and the Deputy President are absent, the senators present, if a quorum, must elect a senator present to act as President for that day only, the question being put to the Senate by the Clerk (SO 14; 6-8/11/1962, J.165, 167, 169). The Senate may also appoint a senator to act as President by a special order in circumstances not covered by the standing order (5/10/1993, J.562-3).

On 21 December 1990, as a courtesy to a long-serving senator who was retiring on that day, the senator took the chair by leave of the Senate granted on 20 December (20-1/12/1990, J.663, 675).

In 1965 the Parliamentary Presiding Officers Act was passed to provide a legal basis for the performance of certain statutory powers of the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives when their offices are vacant. Provision was also made in the Act for the presiding officers’ statutory functions to be performed by the deputy presiding officers when required.

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