The Speaker's most visible role is that of presiding over parliamentary sessions. This consists of overseeing the order in which business is conducted, determining who should speak at what time. The Speaker is also responsible for granting or declining requests for certain events, such as a snap debate on a particular issue. The Speaker has certain powers available to ensure reasonable behaviour by MPs, including the ability to remove disruptive MPs from the debating chamber. The Speaker has a position at the front of Parliament, presiding over all other MPs (including the Prime Minister). The Speaker also makes rulings concerning affairs of parliament as a body (such as many of its dealings with the Governor General), and administers the parliamentary complex itself.
The Speaker is always a Member of Parliament, and is elected by Parliament at the beginning of a parliamentary term. By convention, the Speaker is elected unopposed - any party able to form a government is presumably able to have its candidate installed as Speaker whether there is opposition or not. Historically, a Speaker lost the right to cast a vote, except when both sides were equally balanced. Now, however, the Speaker votes in the same way that any other MP does. In the past, the speaker's lack of a vote created problems for a governing party - when the party's majority was small, the loss of the Speaker's vote could be problematic.
The Speaker is expected to conduct the functions of the office in a neutral manner, even though the Speaker is generally a member of the governing party. Only three people have held the office despite not being so. In 1923, Charles Statham (an independent, but formerly a member of the Reform Party) was backed by Reform so as not to endanger the party's slim majority, and later retained his position under the Liberal Party. In 1993, Peter Tapsell (a member of the Labour Party) was backed by the National Party for the same reason. William Barnard, who had been elected Speaker in 1936, resigned from the Labour Party in 1940 but managed to retain his position.
The current Speaker is Jonathan Hunt, a member of the governing Labour Party. There is also a Deputy Speaker (Anne Hartley, Labour) and two Assistant Speakers (Ross Robertson, Labour, and Clem Simich, National Party).
Twenty-six people have held the office of Speaker since the creation of Parliament. Two people have held the office on more than one separate occasion. A full list of Speakers is below.
|Name||Took Office||Left Office||Speaker's Party|| Governing Party|
|1||Charles Clifford||1856||1860||None|| None|
|2||David Monro||1861||1870||None|| None|
|3||Francis Bell||1871||1875||None|| None|
|4||William Fitzherbert||1876||1879||None|| None|
|5||George O'Rorke||1879||1890||None|| None|
|6||William Steward||1891||1893||Liberal|| Liberal|
|7||George O'Rorke, 2nd time||1894||1902||Liberal|| Liberal|
|8||Arthur Guinness||1903||1913||Liberal|| Liberal|
|9||Frederick Lang||1913||1922||Reform|| Reform|
|10||Charles Statham||1923||1928||None|| Reform|
|Charles Statham, continued||1928||1935||None|| Liberal|
|11||William Barnard||1936||1940||Labour|| Labour|
|William Barnard, continued||1940||1943||None|| Labour|
|12||Frederick Schramm||1944||1946||Labour|| Labour|
|13||Robert McKeen||1947||1950||Labour|| Labour|
|14||Mathew Oram||1950||1957||National|| National|
|15||Robert Macfarlane||1958||1960||Labour|| Labour|
|16||Ronald Algie||1961||1966||National|| National|
|17||Roy Jack||1967||1972||National|| National|
|18||Alfred Allen||1972||1972||National|| National|
|19||Stanley Whitehead||1973||1976||Labour|| Labour|
|Roy Jack, 2nd time||1976||1977||National|| National|
|20||Richard Harrison||1978||1984||National|| National|
|21||Basil Arthur||1984||1985||Labour|| Labour|
|22||Gerard Wall||1985||1987||Labour|| Labour|
|23||Thomas Burke||1987||1990||Labour|| Labour|
|24||Robin Gray||1990||1993||National|| National|
|25||Peter Tapsell||1993||1996||Labour|| National|
|26||Doug Kidd||1996||1999||National|| National|
|27||Jonathan Hunt||1999||(present)||Labour|| Labour|