Keeping a low profile a high sign of decency
IN the world of parliamentary Speakers it is only the infamous who are remembered, which is why MPs hope Tony Smith will not become a household name.
Smith, a relatively youthful 48 years old and in his fifth parliamentary term, is likely to be everything his unlamented predecessor Bronwyn Bishop was not. Most importantly, he is not going to be a one-eyed barracking partisan.
Smith says he won’t be attending Liberal Party meetings, although he will take part in important debates and ballots such as leadership votes.
He fits in the tradition of Speakers who make a mark by not making one – by not being the centre of attention and using that presence to command authority in the House.
Few people remember Speakers such as Joan Child, David Hawker, Neil Andrew, Steve Martin or Harry Jenkins (senior and junior), which is the best outcome.
It is the Speakers who court or attract controversy who are remembered, for all the wrong reasons.
Jim Cope, Labor’s Speaker for most of the Whitlam government, is known because he lost the confidence of the prime minister while Leo McLeay danced to Paul Keating’s tune and famously sued the parliament because he fell off a bike.
More recently, Peter Slipper became Speaker by ratting on his own party and he then attracted controversy. He resigned in ignominy.
Speaker Bishop set a new low, acting as a cheerleader for the Government and showing contempt for contrary voices.
She carries the unfortunate crown of being the most biased Speaker in living memory.
Smith will have tussles but he should handle them with the level head and reasonableness he’s exhibited in his 14 years in parliament.
He is a welcome change.