Speaker Tony Smith to quit parliament at next election after 20 years in Canberra

, Speaker Tony Smith to quit parliament at next election after 20 years in Canberra, The Nzuchi Times Guardian

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tony Smith, is quitting politics after 20 years in Canberra.

Smith, who was first elected to the Victorian seat of Casey in 2001, announced on Wednesday he would step down at the next election to allow for “renewal” within the Liberal party.

“I love our parliament and serving the Australian people,” he said in a statement.

“I am honoured that the Liberal party and the electors of Casey voted to give me this privilege for two decades. However, I believe now is a good time to give the Liberal party and the people of Casey the opportunity for renewal. I also believe the time is now right for me to pursue other endeavours following the conclusion of this 46th parliament.”

Smith said he was making his announcement now to give the Liberal party as much time as possible to find new candidates.

His seat, which he holds with a margin of 4.6%, will be hotly contested at the next election with both Labor and the Greens making strong plays for the electorate.

Smith’s announcement means both the parliamentary presiding officers will be replaced following the next election – no matter who wins. Scott Ryan, a Victorian senator who serves as Smith’s equivalent in the Senate, announced in 2020 he planned to step away from federal politics.

Smith was elected by his colleagues as the Speaker in 2015 after Brownyn Bishop was forced to resign following a travel expenses controversy.

Smith is well respected across both sides of the chamber and in recent months has made a concerted effort to bring decorum back to question time, which had become an unruly display of ideology and party political attacks.

The prime minister Scott Morrison and senior ministers including Greg Hunt, Peter Dutton, Michael McCormack and Josh Frydenberg are among those who have been rebuked by Smith for using question time to launch political attacks against the opposition and for wandering outside the bounds of questions asked.

Smith also caused waves in February 2019 when he used his position to table legal advice from the commonwealth solicitor general against the wishes of the then-attorney general, Christian Porter.

“It is a matter for the house as to how it wishes to proceed with the Senate’s amendments,” Smith said at the time.

“The matter for consideration is not so much one of the privileges and rights of the two houses, as one of the observance of the requirements of the constitution concerning the appropriation of revenue.”

That decision provided a pathway for the parliament to pass the medevac law, against the Coalition’s will, resulting in the government losing a substantive vote on the floor of the House of Representatives for the first time since 1929. The government later overturned the legislation.

Morrison on Wednesday thanked Smith, who he called a “dear friend”, for his service, lauding him as “an outstanding Speaker in the true Westminster tradition”.

“Tony Smith’s intellect, temperament, dry wit, staying above the fray and respect for the Parliament as an institution, has earned him respect, far and wide,” the prime minister said in a statement.

“Many Speakers can get caught in the crossfire of parliamentary debate. Instead, his actions have elevated debate and demonstrated the great strength of parliamentary democracy.”

The manager of opposition business in the house, Tony Burke, also paid tribute, saying Smith was one of the only Speakers in the history of the Australian parliament to have had their nomination by the government seconded by the opposition.

“He’s been consistent, principled, and most importantly fearless. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an opposition backbencher or the prime minister of Australia – he has been willing to stand firm to make sure the Parliament is not undermined,” Burke said.

“He has sought to enhance the role and standing of the house even as the current prime minister has been trashing it and shutting it down.”

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