At the commencement of every Parliament the Speaker nominates a panel of not less than four Members to assist the Chair. At any time during the Parliament the Speaker may nominate additional Members or revoke the nomination of a Member. The Speaker’s nomination of the members of the panel has traditionally been by warrant which he or she has presented to the House early in a new Parliament, although the standing order does not specify that a warrant or other instrument is necessary. Sometimes nominations may be spread over some days, if, for instance, there are delays in persons being proposed by their parties.
The role of a member of the Speaker’s panel is:
- to take the Chair of the Federation Chamber (as Deputy Speaker) when requested to do so by the Deputy Speaker, or in the absence of the Deputy Speaker, the Second Deputy Speaker; and
- to take the Chair of the House as Deputy Speaker when requested to do so by the Speaker or, more usually, by the Deputy Speaker.
The number of Members nominated by the Speaker has varied—in the 42nd Parliament there were 14 Members. Generally the Speaker appoints both opposition and government Members to the Speaker’s panel, with government Members being in the majority. Recent practice has been for a senior member of staff to approach both the government and opposition parties and request a list of nominees for the Speaker’s panel. However, at the start of the 43rd Parliament in 2010 there were no nominees from opposition parties, and ten government Members were appointed.
It is usual for the Speaker to nominate Members who are not in the Ministry or the opposition executive. A member of the panel who becomes a Minister is normally removed from the panel without any announcement being made to the House.
In practice rosters are maintained for occupants of the Chair. On occasion, when neither the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker, nor any Member entitled to serve as Deputy Speaker has been available to take the Chair (or in the past to take the Chair in committee as Deputy Chairman) other Members have taken the Chair with the concurrence of the House so that business could proceed.
If disorder arises or if special circumstances apply when a member of the Speaker’s panel is presiding, the Speaker or Deputy Speaker will often resume the Chair.