A man described as a ‘parliamentarian’ made a rare statement on Thursday, asking to serve out his final days in this way before retiring.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives will spend his final few months in parliament as a backbencher.
The member for Casey, Tony Smith, who will retire from politics at the next election, announced to the House on Thursday that in the final few sitting weeks he wished to step aside as Speaker and explicitly serve his constituents.
Described by both sides as a “deeply respected parliamentarian”, Mr Smith said it had been an “incredible honour” to serve as speaker for more than six years.
“As your speaker, I get to speak. I can speak quite a lot,” he said.
“However, I don’t have the opportunity to contribute to the House on behalf of my constituents as the way you do.
“In the final months of this parliament, I want to return to you on the floor as a government minister.
“I want to spend my remaining time contributing inside and outside the House working exclusively for the people of Casey – without their support, I wouldn’t be in this place.”
Mr Smith has been the member for Casey since 2001.
Parliament will next sit from Monday, November 22. Mr Smith said he would preside over the House on that day, but from Tuesday, November 23, the House would need to elect a new Speaker.
Mr Smith said he would spend the next few weeks working closely with the new Senate president Slade Brockman on a “whole range of (joint) matters”.
In thanking his “dear friend”, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he knew how difficult a decision it would have been for Mr Smith.
“You love this place and you are deeply respected,” he said.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said it was admirable how much Mr Smith cared for the people of his electorate.
“A word to describe you is an honourable word – a parliamentarian. Not everyone who comes to this place is,” Mr Albanese said.
Leader of the House Peter Dutton, who has known Mr Smith for decades, said he should be thanked for his “service and sacrifice”.
“You will be sadly missed,” he said.
Manager of opposition business Tony Burke said Mr Smith was one of only two speakers in the history of Australian government who had been elected three times.
“(And) only one other speaker has been nominated and seconded by both sides,” Mr Burke said.
“I don’t think any words speak as loudly as the evidence … The evidence for best and fairest (speaker in our history) is strong.”