The role of the Speaker
The Speaker is the Presiding Officer of the Legislative Assembly and as such must act with both authority and impartiality. The office of the Speaker is recognised in section 31 of the Constitution Act. The Speaker is described as the Legislative Assembly's "independent and impartial representative".
The first act of a newly elected Parliament, after Members have taken the Pledge of Loyalty, is the election of a Speaker. Section 31B of the Constitution Act together with Standing Order 10 outline the method for the election of the Speaker, which will be by a secret ballot if there is more than one nomination.
By authority of a colonial minute dating back to 1885, the Speaker holds office from the date of election, during the period of dissolution to the election of a successor.
There are important provisions in the Constitution Act 1902 which relate to the Office of Speaker: what happens when the Speaker is absent from the State; the fact that the Speaker is not counted in a quorum; the Speaker's casting vote; the right of the Speaker to participate in debate and vote in divisions when not presiding in the Chair; and the fact that Members resign to the Speaker.
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.
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's decisions are, however, subject to the will of the House exercised through a motion of dissent. (S.O. 95)
Section 31 of the Constitution Act
1902 provides for the Speaker, when not presiding, to take part in any debate or discussion and vote on any question which may arise in the Legislative Assembly. However, in accordance with section 32 of the Constitution Act 1902 when presiding the Speaker can only exercise a casting vote when the votes are equal.
The Speaker is the mouthpiece for the House, for example, conveying Messages and Addresses from the House to the Governor. The Speaker is also charged with upholding the rights and privileges of Members and of the House.
Outside the House, the Speaker performs various duties relating to visits from foreign Heads of State, receiving foreign delegations, leading parliamentary delegations overseas and representing the Assembly at various national and international conferences.
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 and the Executive Manager of the Department of Parliamentary Services. The Speaker is solely responsible for the operation of the Department of the Legislative Assembly.
The present Speaker is The Honourable Shelley Hancock MP