Odgers' Australian Senate Practice Thirteenth Edition

Chapter 7 - Meetings of the Senate

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Swearing of senators elected to periodical vacancies

Periodical elections are almost invariably held together with elections for the House of Representatives and only rarely does their timing permit newly elected senators representing the states to be sworn at the subsequent opening of Parliament. Senators representing the territories, like members of the House of Representatives, are sworn in at the opening of Parliament, which must take place not later than 30 days after the return of the writs. Senators elected to represent the states at a periodical election do not begin their term of office until the first day of July following that election. This means that the date on which they are sworn and first take their seats does not normally coincide with the opening of a session of Parliament. As the Senate very rarely sits in July it is the practice for such newly-elected senators to be sworn on the next sitting day, usually in August.[13]

In this situation there is no President in office because, pursuant to standing order 5, the office of President becomes vacant “on the day next before the first sitting day of the Senate after the 30th day of June following a periodical election”.[14]

The Senate meets at the time appointed. The Governor-General, or the deputy appointed by the Governor-General to administer to newly-elected senators the oath or affirmation of allegiance, is announced. If a deputy is appointed, the commission to administer the oath or affirmation is produced and read by the Clerk.

The certificates of election for the members elected to fill periodical vacancies are laid on the table by the Clerk and each such senator is then sworn. In addition to being sworn or making the affirmation, senators are required to sign the Senators’ Roll on the day on which they take the oath or affirmation of allegiance. The Senators’ Roll is kept by the Clerk, and shows the names of the senators chosen for each state, the dates of election and of taking the oath, and the date and reason for ceasing to be a senator.

After the swearing of newly-elected senators the Governor-General, or the deputy, as the case may be, retires and the Senate proceeds to the election of a President.

Following the election of the President, and on resumption of the sitting after the President is presented to the Governor-General, the President announces the presentation and reports the Governor-General’s reply. Then the business of the Senate may be proceeded with in the ordinary course, including the appointment of the Deputy President and Chair of Committees.

Recent practice has been for the Governor-General personally to administer the oath or affirmation to senators.


13. An exception occurred in 2011 when a new Senate met for the first time on 4 July, the first July changeover since 1950.
14. See Chapter 5, Officers of the Senate: Parliamentary Administration.

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