Speaker of the House retires: a look back at Tony Smith’s sassiest moments
The Speaker of the House has served his final day in Parliament but the legacy of Tony Smith’s quick-witted and dry humoured approach to wrangling Australia’s most boisterous politicians is unlikely to be forgotten soon.
Mr Smith was praised by the Coalition and Labor for his even-handed approach to managing the fires and furies of both sides of politics during his time as speaker.
“You are the longest serving speaker of my generation. And I suspect we have seen the finest speaker that this place has had the great opportunity to witness inaction,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday.
“You have been one of the finest examples of parliamentarians of your generation,” Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said.
Mr Smith pulled no punches in his role, insisting ministers stayed relevant in their answers, and throwing misbehaving politicians out of the chamber under the standing order 94A.
“I’ve certainly pulled Ministers and prime ministers into line. I don’t expect them to be happy about it but I expect them to be fair,” Mr Smith told the ABC.
As Mr Smith stepped down for good, NCANewsWire looked back at some of his sassiest moments in the House of Representatives.
1. Roasting ScoMo
Mr Smith showed no one was above the rules of parliament when he lashed the Prime Minister in May. The speaker appeared visibly frustrated as Mr Morrison evaded questions about Australia’s coronavirus vaccination program.
“I’d just say to the Prime Minister – he needs to be relevant to the question. He’s had a preamble. He doesn’t get a closing statement,” Mr Smith said.
“I’m asking you to return to the question.”
Mr Morrison snapped back, telling the Speaker he was “happy” to oblige with his order.
But Mr Smith was not having bar of it, squaring up with the PM as he shot back with a frosty reply.
“I don’t care whether you’re happy or not. You need to return to the question,” he said.
2. Flaming politicians on both sides
The Prime Minister was not the only politician to find himself on the receiving end of Mr Smith’s sharp tongue as the Speaker threw a record-breaking number of MPs out that same day.
In his crackdown on rambling monologues, Mr Smith took aim at Josh Frydenberg, accusing the Treasurer of scripting insults to Labor politicians.
“I’ve asked the Treasurer to stick to alternative policies. If he wants to give a general character assessment of those opposite, he’ll need to find another time to do it throughout the parliamentary day. No matter how much he’s scripted it beforehand,” he said.
Health Minister Greg Hunt was also criticisted by Mr Smith after he was told to sit down and stop talking.
“The Minister Health will resume his seat. The Minister Health will resume his seat. I’ve now asked the Minister Health to resume his seat for the third time. The Minister Health can resume his seat, full stop,” Mr Smith said.
“I’m not going to be ignored. We’ll go to the next question. I asked him three times to resume his seat.”
By the end of Question Time, Mr Smith had booted out 11 MPs from both sides of the chamber for yelling, interjecting, or failing to follow parliamentary rules.
“Members (of parliament) might be happy to behave in an unparliamentary way every single Question Time but I’m not prepared for that to continue. I’m making that very clear,” he said.
3. Poking fun at the Treasurer’s baldness
Mr Smith took a jab at Josh Frydenberg’s sparsely covered scalp after the Treasurer began throwing stones in glass houses during Question Time in 2019.
Labor MP Mark Butler was attempting to ask a question as Mr Frydenberg suddenly interrupted with an insult about Mr Butler’s hair.
In characteristic dry humour, Mr Smith pointed out the irony of Mr Frydenberg’s comment as he pulled the balding Minister into order.
“If I were the Treasurer, I wouldn’t mention hair at this point in time,” the Speaker said.
“I’m Gobsmacked,” Mr Butler yelled to the Speaker as the house burst into fits of laughter.
Mr Smith smirked as he told the giggling MPs: “Lets just change the topic or we’ll all be in trouble.”
Originally published as Speaker of the House retires: a look back at Tony Smith’s sassiest moments
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