Speaker of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly

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 Jonathan O'Dea, who was elected on 7 May 2019. Traditionally a partisan office, filled by the governing party of the time, O'Dea replaced the previous Liberal Speaker Shelley Hancock, following the 2019 state election.

Speaker of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly
Jonathan O'Dea

since 7 May 2019
StyleThe Honourable
Mr/Madam Speaker (In the House)
AppointerThe Monarch's Representative at the behest of the Legislative Assembly
Term lengthElected by the Assembly at the start of each Parliament, and upon a vacancy
Inaugural holderSir Daniel Cooper


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 element of the traditional outfit, preferring business attire as appropriate for a member of parliament. Speaker Torbay also 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. Speakers Hancock and O'Dea have continued this practice. However, there is nothing stopping any given Speaker, if they choose to do so, from assuming the traditional court dress or anything they deem appropriate.

Speakers of the Legislative AssemblyEdit

# Name[1] Party Term start Term end Term in office
1 Sir Daniel Cooper   None 22 May 1856 31 January 1860 3 years, 254 days
2 Terence Murray   None 31 January 1860 13 October 1862 2 years, 255 days
3 John Hay   None 14 October 1862 31 October 1865 3 years, 17 days
4 William Arnold   None 1 November 1865 1 March 1875 9 years, 120 days
5 Sir George Allen   None 23 March 1875 23 November 1882 7 years, 245 days
6 Edmund Barton   None 3 January 1883 31 January 1887 4 years, 28 days
7 James Young   Free Trade 8 March 1887 21 October 1890 3 years, 227 days
8 Sir Joseph Abbott   Protectionist 22 October 1890 12 June 1900 9 years, 233 days
9 William McCourt   Liberal Reform 13 June 1900 14 November 1910 10 years, 154 days
10 John Cann   Labor 15 November 1910 31 July 1911 258 days
11 Henry Willis   Liberal Reform 24 August 1911 22 July 1913 1 year, 332 days
12 Henry Morton   Independent 22 July 1913 22 December 1913 153 days
13 Richard Meagher   Labor 23 December 1913 16 April 1917 3 years, 114 days
14 John Cohen   Nationalist 17 April 1917 30 January 1919 1 year, 288 days
15 Daniel Levy   Nationalist 19 August 1919 12 December 1921 2 years, 115 days
16 Simon Hickey   Labor 13 December 1921 20 December 1921 7 days
(15) Daniel Levy   Nationalist 20 December 1921 23 June 1925 3 years, 185 days
17 James Dooley   Labor 24 June 1925 2 November 1927 2 years, 131 days
(15) Sir Daniel Levy   Nationalist 3 November 1927 24 November 1930 3 years, 21 days
18 Frank Burke   Labor 25 November 1930 23 June 1932 1 year, 211 days
(15) Sir Daniel Levy   United Australia 24 June 1932 20 May 1937 4 years, 330 days
19 Reginald Weaver   United Australia 4 August 1937 27 May 1941 3 years, 296 days
20 Daniel Clyne   Labor 28 May 1941 27 May 1947 5 years, 364 days
21 Bill Lamb   Labor 28 May 1947 20 April 1959 11 years, 327 days
22 Ray Maher   Labor 21 April 1959 29 January 1965 5 years, 283 days
23 Sir Kevin Ellis   Liberal 26 May 1965 3 December 1973 8 years, 191 days
24 Jim Cameron   Liberal 4 December 1973 24 May 1976 2 years, 172 days
25 Laurie Kelly   Labor 25 May 1976 26 April 1988 11 years, 337 days
26 Kevin Rozzoli   Liberal 27 April 1988 1 May 1995 7 years, 4 days
27 John Murray   Labor 2 May 1995 28 April 2003 7 years, 361 days
28 John Aquilina   Labor 29 April 2003 7 May 2007 4 years, 8 days
29 Richard Torbay   Independent 8 May 2007 2 May 2011 3 years, 359 days
30 Shelley Hancock   Liberal 3 May 2011 7 May 2019 8 years, 4 days
31 Jonathan O'Dea   Liberal 7 May 2019 Incumbent 2 years, 210 days

Deputy and Assistant SpeakersEdit

Deputy SpeakersEdit

# Name[1] Party Term start Term end Term in office
1 John Price   Labor 11 May 1999 2 March 2007 7 years, 295 days
2 Tony Stewart 8 May 2007 11 September 2008 1 year, 126 days
3 Tanya Gadiel 23 September 2008 4 March 2011 2 years, 162 days
4 Thomas George   National 3 May 2011 1 March 2019 7 years, 302 days
5 Leslie Williams   National / Liberal 7 May 2019 Incumbent 2 years, 210 days

Assistant SpeakersEdit

# Name[1] Party Term start Term end Term in office
1 Alison Megarrity   Labor 8 May 2007 4 March 2011 3 years, 300 days
Grant McBride
2 Andrew Fraser   National 3 May 2011 1 March 2019 7 years, 302 days
3 Mark Coure   Liberal 7 May 2019 Incumbent 2 years, 210 days


  1. ^ a b c Part 10 Officers of the Parliament (PDF). NSW Parliamentary Record. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 2021-10-12.

External linksEdit