Speaker of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly

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Speaker of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly
Shelley Hancock

since 3 May 2011
Style The Honourable
Mr/Madam Speaker (In the House)
Appointer The Monarch's Representative at the behest of the Legislative Assembly
Term length Elected at start of each Parliament
Inaugural holder Sir Daniel Cooper
Formation 1856

The Speaker of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly is the presiding officer of the Legislative Assembly, New South Wales's lower chamber of Parliament. The current Speaker is Shelley Hancock, who was elected on 3 May 2011. Traditionally a partisan office, filled by the governing party of the time, Hancock replaced the previous independent Richard Torbay, following the 2011 general election.


The Speaker presides over the House's debates, determining which members may speak. The Speaker is also responsible for maintaining order during debate, and may punish members who break the rules of the House. Conventionally, the Speaker remains non-partisan, and renounces all affiliation with his former political party when taking office. The Speaker does not take part in debate nor vote (except to break ties, and even then, subject to conventions that maintain his or her non-partisan status), although the Speaker is still able to speak. Aside from duties relating to presiding over the House, the Speaker also performs administrative and procedural functions, and remains a constituency Member of Parliament (MP).

The office of the Speaker is recognised in section 31 of the Constitution Act 1902 as the Legislative Assembly's "independent and impartial representative". The first act of the new Parliament, after the swearing in of Members, is the election of a Speaker. Section 31B of the Constitution Act outlines the method of election. Under section 70 of the Parliamentary Electorates and Elections Act 1912, the Speaker issues writs to fill vacancies caused otherwise than by a General Election, which would be issued by the Governor.

The Speaker's role in the House is to maintain order, put questions after debate and conduct divisions. In maintaining order the Speaker interprets and applies the Standing Orders and practice of the House by making rulings and decisions.

The Speaker also has extensive administrative functions, being responsible, with the President, for the overall direction of the Parliament. In this, the Presiding Officers are advised by the Clerks of both Houses. The Speaker is solely responsible for the operation of the Department of the Legislative Assembly.

If only one candidate is nominated for election, then no ballot is held, and the Assembly proceeds directly to the motion to appoint the candidate to the Speakership. A similar procedure is used if a Speaker seeks a further term after a general election: no ballot is held, and the Assembly immediately votes on a motion to re-elect the Speaker. If the motion to re-elect the Speaker fails, candidates are nominated, and the Assembly proceeds with voting. Upon the passage of the motion, the Speaker-elect is expected to show reluctance at being chosen; he or she is customarily "dragged unwillingly" by MPs to the Speaker's bench. This custom has its roots in the Speaker's original function of communicating the House of Commons' opinions to the monarch. Historically, the Speaker, representing the House to the Monarch, potentially faced the Monarch's anger and therefore required some persuasion to accept the post.

After election, the Speaker ceases to be associated with his or her former party. In 2007, Richard Torbay was the first independent Speaker since 1917, breaking a pattern of alternation between Labor and Conservative members which had occurred from the 1917 through to the 2003 elections of Speakers.

James Dooley (1925–1927) as Speaker, wearing the Labor variation of the dress.

Many Speakers also held higher or other offices while in Parliament:The first Speaker, Sir Daniel Cooper (1856–1860) was later made a Baronet, of Woollahra in New South Wales, in 1863; William Arnold (1865–1875) served in the Robertson and Cowper Ministries before becoming Speaker; Sir George Wigram Allen (1875–1882) also served as a Minister in the first Parkes Government; Edmund Barton (1883–1887) entered the new Federal Parliament in 1901 as the first Prime Minister of Australia (1901–1903) and thereafter served as a Puisne Justice of the High Court of Australia until 1920; James Dooley (1925–1927) before taking up the role of Speaker had served two terms as the Premier of New South Wales in 1921 and from 1921 to 1922; Reginald Weaver (1937–1941), later served briefly as Leader of the Opposition of New South Wales and as the first Leader of the NSW Liberal Party in 1945 before his death and John Aquilina (2003–2007) also served as a Minister in the Unsworth and Carr Labor Governments.


Following the Westminster tradition inherited from the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, the traditional dress of the speaker includes components of Court dress such as the black silk lay-type gown (similar to a QC's gown), a lace collar or jabot (another variation included a white bow tie with a lace jabot), bar jacket, white gloves and a full-bottomed wig. Often the dress variated according to the party in power, with most Labor party speakers eschewing the wig while retaining the court dress, while conservative and independent speakers tended to wear the full dress.

Reginald Weaver (1937–1941) as Speaker, wearing the full traditional dress.

The Speaker, currently, no longer wears the traditional court dress outfit. Kevin Rozzoli was the last speaker to do so. From 1995 to 2007, Speakers Murray and Aquilina opted not to wear any dress at all, preferring a business suit. Torbay chose not to wear the full court dress of the speaker upon his election in 2007, nevertheless he returned to tradition by wearing the gown during question time and significant occasions such as the Budget. Speaker Hancock has continued this practice. However, there is nothing stopping any given Speaker, if they choose to do so, from assuming traditional court dress or anything they deem appropriate.

Speakers of the Legislative Assembly[edit]

# Member Party Term in Office
1 Hon Sir Daniel Cooper None 22 May 1856 – 31 January 1860
2 Hon Terence Aubrey Murray None 31 January 1860 – 13 October 1862
3 Hon John Hay None 14 October 1862 – 31 October 1865
4 Hon William Arnold None 1 November 1865 – 1 March 1875
5 Hon Sir George Wigram Allen None 23 March 1875 – 23 November 1882
6 Hon Edmund Barton None 3 January 1883 – 31 January 1887
7 Hon James Young Free Trade Party 8 March 1887 – 21 October 1890
8 Hon Sir Joseph Palmer Abbott Independent 22 October 1890 – 12 June 1900
9 Hon William McCourt Liberal Reform Party 13 June 1900 – 14 November 1910
10 Hon John Cann Australian Labor Party 15 November 1910 – 31 July 1911
11 Hon Henry Willis Liberal Party 24 August 1911 – 22 July 1913
12 Hon Henry Morton Independent 22 July 1913 – 22 December 1913
13 Hon Richard Meagher Independent 23 December 1913 – 16 April 1917
14 Hon John Cohen Liberal Reform Party 17 April 1917 – 30 January 1919
15 Hon Daniel Levy Nationalist Party 19 August 1919 – 12 December 1921
16 Hon Simon Hickey Australian Labor Party 13 December 1921 – 20 December 1921
Hon Daniel Levy Nationalist Party 20 December 1921 – 23 June 1925
17 Hon James Dooley Australian Labor Party 24 June 1925 – 2 November 1927
Hon Sir Daniel Levy United Australia Party 3 November 1927 – 24 November 1930
18 Hon Frank Burke Australian Labor Party 25 November 1930 – 23 June 1932
Hon Sir Daniel Levy United Australia Party 24 June 1932 – 20 May 1937
19 Hon Reginald Weaver United Australia Party 4 August 1937 – 27 May 1941
20 Hon Daniel Clyne Australian Labor Party 28 May 1941 – 27 May 1947
21 Hon Bill Lamb Australian Labor Party 28 May 1947 – 20 April 1959
22 Hon Ray Maher Australian Labor Party 21 April 1959 – 29 January 1965
23 Hon Sir Kevin Ellis Liberal Party 26 May 1965 – 3 December 1973
24 Hon Jim Cameron Liberal Party 4 December 1973 – 24 May 1976
25 Hon Laurie Kelly Australian Labor Party 25 May 1976 – 26 April 1988
26 Hon Kevin Rozzoli Liberal Party 27 April 1988 – 1 May 1995
27 Hon John Murray Australian Labor Party 2 May 1995 – 28 April 2003
28 Hon John Aquilina Australian Labor Party 29 April 2003 – 7 May 2007
29 Hon Richard Torbay Independent 8 May 2007 – 2 May 2011
30 Hon Shelley Hancock Liberal 3 May 2011 – present

External links[edit]