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Factsheet No. 3 - Key Figures in the Assembly

Factsheet No. 3 - Key Figures in the Assembly

​​There are a number of key figures, who are either elected representatives or employed by the Parliament, that work in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly Chamber on a sitting day and perform a range of important tasks. This factsheet gives an overview of those key figures and the functions that they perform.

​Contents

  • The Speaker
  • The Deputy Speaker, Assistant Speaker and Temporary Speakers
  • The Premier
  • Ministers
  • Parliamentary Secretaries
  • The Leader of the Opposition
  • The Leader of the House and Manager of Opposition Business
  • Party Whips
  • Officers of the Legislative Assembly


The Speaker

The Speaker is the Presiding Officer of the Legislative Assembly whose role it is to oversee proceedings and maintain order in the Legislative Assembly Chamber. Despite the Speaker being member of a political party, under Section 31 of the Constitution Act, the Speaker must act with both authority and impartiality.

In maintaining order, the Speaker interprets and applies the Standing Orders and practices of the Assembly by making rulings and decisions. The Speaker is the "mouthpiece for the House" and is responsible for conveying messages and addresses from the Legislative Assembly to the Legislative Council and the Governor.

The Speaker is also responsible for upholding the rights and privileges of Members and has extensive administrative duties, being responsible, with the President of the Legislative Council, for the overall direction of the Parliament.

When not presiding, the Speaker can participate in debates and vote in divisions in the same way as any other Member.

The Deputy Speaker, Assistant Speaker and Temporary Speakers

The principle responsibility of the Deputy Speaker is to perform the duties of the Speaker, both in the Chair and when the House is not sitting, when the Speaker is not available.

In the absence of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, the Assistant Speaker performs the duties of the Speaker.

The Speaker can also nominate up to five Members to serve as Temporary Speakers. In the absence of the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker and the Assistant Speaker, Temporary Speakers may perform the duties of the Speaker.

The Premier

The Premier is the Chief Minister, senior representative and spokesperson of the Government. The Premier leads and coordinates the work of the Ministers and has greater authority over all aspects of the Government's direction and policies than any other Minister.

The Premier by convention is a Member of the Legislative Assembly, and, like other Members of the Legislative Assembly, he/she also represents an electorate and has local electorate responsibilities.

Ministers

Ministers are senior parliamentary members of the Government.

Each Minister has one or more government departments or agencies which they are in charge of and responsible to the Parliament for. They also have a number of laws which they and their departments administer. The decisions made by Ministers, either individually or together as the Executive Government, shape the Government's overall direction and policies. Under their direction the various agencies and departments carry out the administration of government in the State.

Ministers who are Members of the Legislative Assembly also represent electorates and have local electorate responsibilities.  The majority of Ministers are in the Legislative Assembly.
  

Parliamentary Secretaries

Parliamentary Sectaries are Members who are appointed by the Premier to assist Ministers with their portfolio responsibilities, and to act on behalf of Ministers in respect of many of their duties in the Legislative Assembly.

The Leader of the Opposition

The Leader of the Opposition is the leader of the largest non-Government party (or coalition of parties) and is chosen by the party.

In our Westminster system the Opposition is the alternative government ready to assume power should the government lose the confidence of the House or be defeated at an election.

The duties of the Leader of the Opposition include leading and directing the Opposition's policies and strategies, presenting alternative policies to those of the Government, being the chief Opposition spokesperson, leading the 'Shadow Ministry', and leading the Opposition at NSW General Elections.

The Leader of the House and Manager of Opposition Business

The Leader of the House is appointed by the Government to manage Government business in the Legislative Assembly.

The Leader arranges the Government's program of business, including the bills that the Executive Government wants to deal with in the Legislative Assembly, and is the Government's main spokesperson on procedural matters.

Generally, the Leader of the House is a Minister. This is because the Standing Orders specify that only Ministers can introduce certain Government business.

The Manager of Opposition Business is appointed by the Opposition to liaise with the Leader of the House to facilitate the orderly conduct of business in the Legislative Assembly.

Party Whips

The Government and Opposition Parties elect what are called 'Whips' from among their elected Members. In the Legislative Assembly the Government and Opposition Parties elect both a Whip and a Deputy Whip.

The duties of the Whips are to liaise with Party Leaders and Ministers about business of the House, and to:

  • ensure that Members attend in the Chamber (especially during divisions);
  • arrange for speakers in debates;
  • arrange 'pairs'[1] for divisions; and
  • count the number of "ayes" and "noes" in divisions (practice not compulsory).

The Whips also act as intermediaries between the party leaders and backbench Members.

Officers of the Legislative Assembly

The permanent officers of the Legislative Assembly are the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, the Deputy Clerk, the Clerk-Assistant, Committees and Corporate, and the Clerk-Assistant, Table and Serjeant​-at-Arms

The Clerks are primarily responsible for giving procedural advice to Members, keeping the records of the House, supporting the Legislative Assembly Chamber and committees administered by the Legislative Assembly, supporting Members in their electorate responsibilities, and managing the Department of the Legislative Assembly.

The Clerk of the Legislative Assembly is the Assembly's Chief Officer and, along with the other Clerks, is independent from the Government and the Opposition and accountable only to the Speaker. When the Legislative Assembly is sitting the Clerk and Clerks-Assistant sit at a table in front of the Speaker where they are well positioned to give quick procedural advice to the Speaker and any other Members when it is required.



[1] A pair is an arrangement between parties whereby two Members from opposing sides of the House do not vote on a particular occasion. This is so that one or both Members can be absent without affecting the vote.