Father of the Australian Senate

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In Australian parliamentary practice, the Father of the Senate is the senator in the Australian Senate who has served longer, continuously, than any other currently serving senator.[1] The title is seldom used today.[1] It is an informal, honorific title which carries no parliamentary responsibilities. Where two or more senators have had equal lengths of continuous service, more than any other currently serving senators, they are known as the joint Fathers of the Senate. The current Father of the Senate is Ian Macdonald who acquired the status on 6 February 2015 after the resignation from Parliament of the then Father of the Senate, John Faulkner.

The only Father of the Senate with broken service but whose latter period of continuous service was sufficiently long to qualify was Sir Walter Cooper. Annabelle Rankin was a joint Father of the Senate, from 1 July 1968 to 24 May 1971, the only female to achieve that status. The possibility of a woman becoming a longest-serving senator was not provided for in Australian Senate Practice, and there has still been no move to amend the text or title to this day.[1]

The first Senate was elected on 29 and 30 March 1901. Despite the different election dates, all the members elected to that first Parliament were considered to have had equal seniority. It follows that there could not be a "longest-serving Senator" until only one Senator from the first Parliament was still serving. That occurred on 14 September 1923 with the death of Hon Edward Millen, leaving Sir George Pearce as the sole longest-serving Senator, and thus the first sole Father of the Senate.

Since that date the Fathers and joint Fathers of the Senate have been as follows, with joint Fathers being shown in small type:

From To Senator Continuous
term started
Duration Status
15 September 1923 30 June 1938 Sir George Pearce 29 March 1901 37 years, 93 days Father
1 July 1938 30 June 1947 Thomas Crawford
Harry Foll
1 July 1917 30 years, 0 days Joint Fathers
1 July 1947 30 June 1950 Joe Collings
Gordon Brown
1 July 1932 18 years, 0 days Joint Fathers
1 July 1950 30 June 1965 Gordon Brown 1 July 1932 33 years, 0 days Father
1 July 1965 30 June 1968 Sir Walter Cooper[2] 1 July 1935 33 years, 0 days Father
1 July 1968 24 May 1971 Bert Hendrickson
Justin O'Byrne
Dame Annabelle Rankin
1 July 1947 23 years, 328 days Joint Fathers
25 May 1971 30 June 1971 Bert Hendrickson
Justin O'Byrne
1 July 1947 24 years, 0 days Joint Fathers
1 July 1971 30 June 1981 Justin O'Byrne 1 July 1947 34 years, 0 days Father
1 July 1981 23 January 1987 Doug McClelland 1 July 1962 24 years, 207 days Father
24 January 1987 27 February 1989 Arthur Gietzelt
Peter Durack
1 July 1971 17 years, 242 days Joint Fathers
28 February 1989 30 June 1993 Peter Durack 1 July 1971 22 years, 0 days Father
1 July 1993 30 June 1999 Mal Colston
Brian Harradine
13 December 1975 23 years, 200 days Joint Fathers
1 July 1999 30 June 2005 Brian Harradine 13 December 1975 29 years, 200 days Father
1 July 2005 30 June 2008 John Watson 1 July 1978 30 years, 0 days Father
1 July 2008 30 June 2014 Ron Boswell 5 March 1983 31 years, 118 days Father
1 July 2014 6 February 2015 John Faulkner 4 April 1989 25 years, 309 days Father
6 February 2015 incumbent Ian Macdonald 1 July 1990 25 years, 226 days Father
  1. ^ a b c Odgers’ Australian Senate Practice (13th ed): Chapter 6 - Seniority of Senators
  2. ^ Walter Cooper had also served between 17 November 1928 and 30 June 1932.

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