Opinion Number. 1078

Subject

SPEAKER OF HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES CHOSEN TO PERFORM DUTIES OF SPEAKER IN HIS ABSENCE: SPEAKER ILL: WHETHER CHAIRMAN CAN ISSUE WRIT FOR VACANCY IN HOUSE

Key Legislation

CONSTITUTION, ss. 33, 36

Date
Client
The Clerk of the House of Representatives

The Clerk of the House of Representatives forwards the following case for advice:

With reference to the vacancy for the Division of Maranoa, caused by the death of Mr James Page-in the case of a by-election, under section 33 of the Constitution the Speaker issues the writ. Under the same section, in the absence from the Commonwealth of the Speaker, the Governor-General in Council may issue the writ.

The Speaker is ill in Melbourne, and it is not considered advisable to ask him to sign the writ, especially as he is still unaware of the death of Mr Page.

Section 36 of the Constitution provides that: 'Before or during any absence of the Speaker, the House of Representatives may choose a member to perform his duties in his absence'. On 18 May last the following resolution was passed by the House of Representatives:

That the Chairman of Committees shall on each sitting day, during the absence of Mr Speaker, take the chair as Deputy Speaker, and may perform the duties and exercise the authority of Mr Speaker during such absence.

I should be glad if you would kindly let me know whether, in the circumstances, you see any constitutional or legal objection to the writ being issued (on Monday next) by Mr Chanter, the Deputy Speaker.

Under section 33 of the Constitution the writ for a vacancy in the House of Representatives is to be issued by the Speaker, unless there is no Speaker or the Speaker is absent from the Commonwealth.

The Speaker is not absent from the Commonwealth, but is ill and absent from duty.

Under section 36 of the Constitution, the House of Representatives, before or during any absence of the Speaker, may choose a member to perform his duties in his absence.

The House has, by resolution declared that 'the Chairman of Committees shall on each sitting day, during the absence of Mr Speaker, take the chair as Deputy

Speaker, and may perform the duties and exercise the authority of Mr Speaker during such absence'.

In my opinion, by virtue of section 36 of the Constitution and the resolution mentioned, Mr Chanter, the Chairman of Committees and Deputy Speaker, has, whilst the absence of the Speaker from duty continues, authority to exercise the functions of the Speaker under section 33 of the Constitution to issue a writ for a vacancy in the House.

I therefore see no constitutional objection to the writ for the existing vacancy being issued by the Deputy Speaker.

[Vol. 17, p. 351]