The Deputy Speaker’s former title of ‘Chairman of Committees’ was dropped with the abolition of the committee of the whole in 1994. For a description of the origin and former functions of the position see pages 233–39 of the second edition.
In addition to the function of Speaker’s deputy, the Deputy Speaker has specific responsibility for chairing the Federation Chamber. In the absence of the Speaker the Deputy Speaker serves as Acting Speaker (see page 184).
Election of Deputy Speaker
At the beginning of each Parliament or whenever the office becomes vacant, the House elects a Member to be Deputy Speaker.
The election of the Deputy Speaker takes place after the Speaker has been elected in a new Parliament. The ballot for Deputy Speaker at the beginning of a Parliament also determines the election of the Second Deputy Speaker. The procedure is similar to that for the election of Speaker except that the Speaker presides, not the Clerk. A further difference is that nominees do not have to be present at the election or inform the House whether they accept nomination.
If there is more than one nomination, a ballot is held, and the Member with the most votes is elected Deputy Speaker and the Member with the next greatest number of votes Second Deputy Speaker. If two nominees are equal the Speaker has a casting vote. There has been no occasion when there have been more than two candidates for the office of Deputy Speaker (or formerly, Chairman of Committees).
The office of Deputy Speaker is usually filled by the nominee of the government party or parties. In the case of a Liberal–Nationals coalition Government, the usual practice has been for the Nationals to nominate the Government’s candidate for Deputy Speaker and for the Liberal Party to nominate the candidate for Speaker.
In the early years after Federation, when party lines were not clearly drawn, the incumbent of the then office of Chairman of Committees did not always change with a change in the Government. In 1941, when the Curtin Ministry succeeded the Fadden Ministry without an election, Chairman Prowse remained in office. He resigned on 21 June 1943 at the same time as Speaker Nairn. In divisions in the House in the period from 1941 to 1943, Chairman Prowse frequently voted against the Government and immediately following his resignation he voted in support of a motion of no confidence in the Government.
Deputy Speaker as Chair of House
As it would be impossible for the Speaker to take the Chair for the whole of the time the House is sitting, the standing orders make the necessary relief provisions. It is not necessary to inform the House when such relief arrangements are about to take place.
When the Speaker is absent the Deputy Speaker becomes Acting Speaker (see page 184). The Deputy Speaker may also take the Chair of the House during any sitting of the House whenever requested to do so by the Speaker.
While in the Chair, the Deputy Speaker has the same procedural powers and functions as the Speaker. In 1906 the Chairman of Committees, as Deputy Speaker, signed a message to the President of the Senate. After consideration the President accepted the message. It is now the practice for the Deputy Speaker to sign messages to the Senate whenever the Speaker is unavailable.
If the Deputy Speaker is absent, the Speaker may ask the Second Deputy Speaker or any member of the Speaker’s panel to take the Chair as Deputy Speaker but the Deputy Speaker, in practice, ensures that an unofficial roster is maintained to provide occupants for the Chair throughout a sitting. ‘Deputy Speaker’ is the correct address to be used when the Deputy Speaker, Second Deputy Speaker or a member of the Speaker’s panel is relieving the Speaker in the Chair.
If the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker are both absent, the Second Deputy Speaker performs the duties of the Speaker as Acting Speaker. In the absence of the Deputy Speaker the Second Deputy Speaker acts as Deputy Speaker. The Acting Deputy Speaker has all the powers and functions of the Deputy Speaker.
For coverage of the powers and duties of the Deputy Speaker as Chair of the Federation Chamber see chapter on ‘The Federation Chamber’.
Resignation and vacancy
If the Deputy Speaker wishes to resign from office, he or she may do so by means of a personal announcement, or by notifying the Speaker, in writing, who will make an announcement to the House.
The practice following the resignation of a Chairman of Committees was formerly for a motion to be moved ‘That the resignation be accepted, and that the House proceed forthwith to appoint a Chairman of Committees’. More recent practice was not to have motions accepting a Chairman’s resignation.
On 14 July 1975 Chairman Berinson resigned from office, by letter to the Speaker, as he had been appointed to the Ministry. As the House was not sitting a new Chairman could not be elected and Mr Berinson was deemed to continue to be Chairman of Committees until a new Chairman was elected by the House on 19 August 1975. In addition, as the Speaker was absent overseas, Mr Berinson was deemed to be Presiding Officer for the purposes of the exercise of any powers or functions by the Presiding Officer under a law of the Commonwealth.