Explainer: President and Speaker to step down

Both the President of the Senate, Senator the Hon Scott Ryan, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Hon Tony Smith MP, will leave Parliament after the next federal election.

The President of the Senate.

The President of the Senate sits in a large red chair. In front of him, the Clerks sit at a table with books on it.

David Foote/DPS Auspic


The President of the Senate sits in a large red chair. There is another chair to the right. In front of the President, the Clerk and Deputy Clerk sit at a table with books on it.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives in the Speaker's chair. There is a carving of leaves in the wood behind him.

David Foote/DPS Auspic


A man in a suit sits in a large green chair in front of a carved wooden screen. Two people in black robes sit at a table below him. There are books, boxes and sand timers on the table.

Jul 21, 2021

Mr Smith announced that he would not run as candidate in his electorate of Casey in Victoria, bringing an end to his career in the House of Representatives and his time as the Speaker. Senator Ryan had announced in March that he would not be a candidate at the next federal election.

This means both the Senate and the House of Representatives will need to choose new presiding officers.

Is the President always a senator and is the Speaker always a member of the House of Representatives?

Yes. Section 17 of the Australian Constitution states that the senators ‘shall choose a senator to be President’ and section 35 states that the House of Representatives ‘shall choose a member to be the Speaker of the House’.

How does the House choose a Speaker?

The House chooses a Speaker in the same way it makes most of its decisions: by voting. The House usually elects a government member to be Speaker, as the government is the team with the support of the majority of the members in the House of Representatives.

On the three occasions when Tony Smith was elected Speaker, he received unanimous support from the other members of the House of Representatives. This is rare, as the opposition will often nominate one of its members for the role of Speaker.

How is the President chosen?

Like the House of Representatives, the Senate votes for President. While the government may not have a majority in the Senate, the usual practice is for the senators to elect a senator from the government.

Who will the next President and Speaker be?

Nobody knows. We would expect that after the next election both the Senate and House of Representatives will elect presiding officers from the government team. However, as nobody knows which team will be elected as government it is impossible to say who the next President or Speaker might be.