Election of new Speaker of the House
On Thursday, 31 January at 2 p.m. members of Parliament will elect a new Speaker, following the resignation of Dr The Rt Hon Lockwood Smith from that office. The rules for electing the Speaker are covered by Standing Orders 15 to 25.
For such an election, the Clerk of the House of Representatives acts as chairperson and calls for nominations. Candidates must be nominated by another member, and the nomination must be seconded. If only one member is nominated, the Clerk declares that member elected. If two members are nominated, the Speaker is elected by a personal vote. If three or more are nominated, each member is asked to vote individually for a preferred candidate. If one candidate receives the majority of votes they are declared elected. Otherwise, the candidate with the least support is eliminated and a further vote is held. When the number of candidates is reduced to two, a personal vote is held.
By tradition, the successful nominee is physically dragged to the Speaker’s Chair by other members, a practice inherited from Westminster (the British Parliament). In Westminster, the Speaker's original function was to communicate the House of Commons’ views to the Sovereign. If the Sovereign did not like the message, then life could become difficult for the Speaker. Consequently, Speakers required some persuasion to accept the post!
The Mace, representing the Crown, is laid upon the Table of the House and the Speaker-Elect makes a short address. Usually, congratulatory speeches from party leaders follow. The House then adjourns and the Speaker-Elect visits the Governor-General to seek confirmation.
The role of the Speaker includes speaking for the House to the Crown, chairing meetings of the House, chairing three select committees, acting as landlord for Parliament’s buildings, and representing the House to international and other important visitors.