President of the New South Wales Legislative Council

The president of the New South Wales Legislative Council is the presiding officer of the upper house of the Parliament of New South Wales, the Legislative Council. The presiding officer of the lower house is the speaker of the Legislative Assembly. The role of President has generally been a partisan office, filled by the governing party of the time. As of May 2017 the president is John Ajaka.

President of the
New South Wales Legislative Council
John Ajaka

since 21 February 2017
StyleThe Honourable
Mr / Madam President
(in the Council)
AppointerThe Monarch's representative at the behest of the Legislative Council
Term lengthElected at start of each Parliament
Inaugural holderSir Alfred Stephen
Formation20 May 1856
DeputyThe Hon. Trevor Khan, MLC


The president is elected by the Council in a secret ballot. The Clerk of the Council conducts the election. The Presidency has always been a partisan office and the nominee of the government party has nearly always been elected—although this cannot be guaranteed since the government of the day does not necessarily have a majority in the Council. The president is assisted by an elected deputy president. The traditional practice has been that the government nominates an MLC to be elected as President, and the Opposition nominates an MLC to be Deputy President. However, as with now, this is not always the case.


The president has a casting vote (in the event of an equality of votes). Like the speaker, the president continues to attend party meetings, and at general elections stands as a party candidate. On the other hand, the president does not usually take part in debates in the Council and does not speak in public on party-political issues. He or she is expected to conduct the business of the Council in an impartial and dignified manner.

Section 22I of the NSW Constitution states that "All questions arising in the Legislative Council shall be decided by a majority of the votes of the Members present other than the President or other Member presiding and when the votes are equal the President or other Member presiding shall have a casting vote."


The president’s principal duty is to preside over the Council, although he or she is assisted in this by the deputy president and a panel of acting deputy presidents, who usually preside during routine debates. The occupant of the chair must maintain order in the Council, uphold the Standing Orders (rules of procedure) and protect the rights of backbench councillors. The president, in conjunction with the speaker of the Legislative Assembly, also administers Parliament House, Sydney, with the assistance of administrative staff.

Although the president does not have the same degree of disciplinary power as the speaker does, the Council is not as rowdy as most Australian legislative chambers, and thus his or her disciplinary powers are seldom exercised.

Perquisites and ceremony

Following the Westminster tradition inherited from the House of Lords 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 Queen's Counsel gown), a wing collar and a lace jabot or bands (another variation included a white bow tie with a lace jabot), bar jacket, and a full-bottomed wig.

The dress of speakers has often variated according to the party in power, but is determinate on the personal choice of the speaker. Most Labor party presidents eschewed the wig while retaining the court dress, while conservative and independent speakers tended to wear the full dress.

The president, currently, no longer wears the full traditional court dress outfit. Max Willis (1991-1998) was the last president to do so. From 1998 to 2011, all the presidents opted not to wear any dress at all, preferring normal business attire. However, upon his election, President Harwin returned to tradition by wearing the gown during question time and on significant occasions such as the Opening of Parliament. However, there is nothing stopping any given speaker, if they choose to do so, from assuming traditional court dress or anything they deem appropriate.

List of presidents of the Legislative Council

#PresidentParty affiliationTerm startTerm endTime in office
1The Hon. Sir Alfred StephenNone20 May 185628 January 1857253 days
2The Hon. John PlunkettNone29 January 18576 February 18581 year, 8 days
3The Hon. Sir William BurtonNone9 February 185810 March 18613 years, 29 days
4The Hon. William WentworthNone24 June 186110 October 18621 year, 108 days
5The Hon. Sir Terence MurrayNone14 October 186222 June 187310 years, 251 days
6The Hon. Sir John HayNone8 July 187310 January 189218 years, 186 days
7The Hon. Sir John LackeyNone26 January 189223 May 190311 years, 117 days
8The Hon. Sir Francis SuttorProgressive23 May 19034 April 191511 years, 316 days
Liberal Reform
9The Hon. Frederick FlowersLabor27 April 191514 December 192813 years, 231 days
10The Hon. Sir John PedenNationalist5 February 192922 April 194617 years, 76 days
United Australia
11The Hon. Ernest FarrarLiberal30 April 194616 June 19526 years, 47 days
12The Hon. William DicksonLabor18 August 195222 May 196613 years, 277 days
13The Hon. Sir Harry BuddCountry9 August 19665 November 197812 years, 88 days
14The Hon. Johno JohnsonLabor7 November 19783 July 199112 years, 238 days
15The Hon. Max WillisLiberal3 July 199129 June 19986 years, 361 days
16The Hon. Virginia ChadwickLiberal29 June 19985 March 1999249 days
17The Hon. Dr Meredith BurgmannLabor11 May 19992 March 20077 years, 295 days
18The Hon. Peter PrimroseLabor8 May 200717 November 20092 years, 193 days
19The Hon. Amanda FazioLabor24 November 20093 May 20111 year, 160 days
20The Hon. Don HarwinLiberal3 May 201130 January 2017 (2017-01-30)5 years, 272 days
21The Hon. John AjakaLiberal21 February 2017Incumbent2 years, 293 days

Deputy President and Chair of Committees

Originally titled Chairman of Committees, the current style was adopted on 5 May 2004 during the term of the first female holder of the office. Various legal and constitutional amendments to follow this change were made in the Constitution Amendment (Parliamentary Presiding Officers) Act 2014.[1]

Chairman of CommitteesParty affiliationTerm startTerm end
Hon. George AllenNone4 June 185615 January 1873
Hon. Joseph DockerNone15 January 18739 February 1875
Hon. Sir Joseph InnesNone9 February 187516 December 1880
Hon. Joseph DockerNone16 December 188011 December 1884
Hon. William PiddingtonNone17 March 188525 November 1887
Hon. Archibald JacobNone1 December 188728 May 1900
Hon. William TrickettNone13 June 190023 July 1912
Hon. Broughton O'ConorLiberal Reform24 July 191222 April 1934
United Australia
Hon. Ernest FarrarUnited Australia2 May 193422 April 1946
Hon. Thomas SteeleCountry30 April 194611 March 1953
Hon. Ernest Gerard WrightLabor11 March 195322 April 1967
Hon. Stanley EskellLiberal2 August 19676 March 1969
Hon. Thomas McKayLiberal12 March 19695 November 1978
Hon. Clive HealeyLabor8 November 197822 February 1988
Hon. Sir Adrian SolomonsNational28 April 19882 July 1991
Hon. Duncan GayNational3 July 199110 May 1999
Hon. Tony KellyLabor11 May 199929 April 2003
Hon. Amanda FazioLabor30 April 20035 May 2004
Deputy PresidentParty affiliationTerm startTerm end
Hon. Amanda FazioLabor5 May 200424 November 2009
Hon. Kayee GriffinLabor24 November 20094 March 2011
Hon. Jenny GardinerNational3 May 20115 May 2015
Hon. Trevor KhanNational5 May 2015Incumbent

Assistant President

Assistant President[1]Party affiliationTerm startTerm end
Hon. Fred NileChristian Democrats28 June 20077 May 2019
Hon. Shaoquett MoselmaneLabor7 May 2019Incumbent


  1. "Part Ten - Officers of Parliament" (PDF). Parliament of New South Wales. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 February 2016. Retrieved 8 March 2016.
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