Commonwealth of Australia Coat of Arms
For Peace, Order and Good Government: The first Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia
Early proposals
Six colonies
Drafting a constitution
Declaration of the Commonwealth
Conducting the first Federal election
Who could vote?
The election campaign
9 May 1901
The royal visit
The first federal parliamentarians
Ministry of May, 1901
Edmund Barton
Political parties
Legislative program
Relationship between the houses

Members of the First Parliament

Sir Richard Chaffey Baker. First President of the Senate

Sir Richard Chaffey Baker (1841-1911)

Senator for South Australia 1901-1906

Richard Baker was born in North Adelaide, South Australia, and educated in England. On his return to Australia in 1864 he practised as a barrister. He was a member of the South Australian House of Assembly (1868-71) and the Legislative Council (1877-1901) where he was President from 1893 to 1901. In each house he was the first native-born member to be elected. A strong advocate of federation, Baker was an active member of the federal conventions of 1891 and 1897-8, where his writings on federation were extensively used as a source of reference by the delegates. He led the argument of the smaller colonies for a Senate with powers equal to those of the House of Representatives.

Baker was elected to the Senate to represent South Australia in 1901 and was the first President of the Senate from 1901 until his retirement owing to ill health in 1906. Although politically aligned with the Freetraders, he refused, in his capacity as presiding officer, to take sides in the debates between Freetraders and Protectionists. He was respected for his fairness and decision-making abilities and was a great advocate of the role and importance of the Senate.

Baker was knighted in 1895 and appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1900. After leaving political life, he concentrated on his various mining and pastoral interests.

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