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A new Speaker for the House

The Member for Casey, the Hon Tony Smith MP is the new Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives.

Following the resignation of the Hon Bronwyn Bishop MP (Mackellar, NSW) Mr Smith was elected to the role of Speaker on 10 August 2015.

The Speakership is the most important office in the House of Representatives. The House cannot function without a Speaker. The Constitution requires the House of Representatives choose a Member to be Speaker before conducting any other business. The Standing Orders of the House of Representatives provide that the Clerk shall act as Chair over the proceedings to elect a Speaker.

Following a party room vote in which Mr Smith was selected as the Government’s nominee for Speaker, Mr Smith was nominated in the House for Speaker by the Member for Deakin, Mr Michael Sukkar MP (Liberal Party, Victoria). The Member for Robertson, Mrs Lucy Wicks MP (Liberal Party, NSW) seconded this motion.

After accepting his nomination Mr Smith was elected by the House unopposed.

Like other newly elected Speakers, Mr Smith showed a token struggle as he was escorted to the Chair by his proposer and seconder.

A new Speaker resisting the office is a centuries old custom. Traditionally the role of Speaker was an unenviable one. A key function of the Speakership is delivering messages between the parliament and the sovereign. A number of Speakers throughout history met violent ends at the hands of monarchs unhappy with legislators opposing royal power.

These days, however, the greater challenge for the Speaker is chairing the meetings of the House and ensuring they are conducted in an orderly manner and in accordance with the Constitution and Standing Orders.

Speaking to the House immediately after his election, Mr Smith said that Parliament is an arena for the battle of ideas and ideals.

“Often people say Parliament should not be robust. It should, but it need not be rude and it need not be loud. That is something I would like to see improve. I cannot do that, but together we all can,” Mr Smith said.

Mr Smith also told the parliament he would not be attending weekly party meetings.

“It is my view that the Speaker should not only be but also be seen to be independent of the partisan day-to-day fray,” he said.

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