View from The Hill: Speaker Tony Smith, proponent of ‘order in the House’ to retire at election


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraSpeaker Tony Smith – who has been battling to force better behaviour in the House of Representatives on MPs including Scott Morrison – has announced he will not contest the next election.

Smith, 54, has held the Victorian seat of Casey – which takes in outer eastern suburbs in Melbourne – since 2001. He’s been around Parliament House much longer, though, having worked previously for Peter Costello from 1990 to 2001.

He said in a Wednesday statement his decision not to re-contest had been taken “after a great deal of thought and consideration”.

“I love our parliament and serving the Australian people. 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 forty-sixth Parliament.”

Smith followed as speaker the highly partisan Bronwyn Bishop, after she was forced to quit the post in 2015 over misuse of entitlements.

From his start in the role, Smith has been highly regarded by both sides of politics for his even-handedness and fair rulings. He said at the beginning he would not attend party room meetings and noted he had friends in opposition ranks.

One of those lobbying for Smith in the ballot (among Liberal members of the House) for the nomination was Scott Morrison, who was social services minister.

Immediately on assuming the chair Smith said parliament should be a robust place, however “it needn’t be rude and it needn’t be loud.”

Recently, against the background of the apparently intractable loud and rude behaviour, he has made a toughly determined effort to impose greater discipline on an unruly house. This surprised colleagues and shocked (and probably angered) ministers who have felt the lash of his tongue.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Bringing Scott Morrison to heel


In particular he has cracked down heavily to stop the government frontbenchers, including Morrison, flouting the standing orders, notably by giving answers that are irrelevant to the questions they are asked.

A few weeks ago Smith brought Morrison into line in a way that was highly embarrassing for the PM. After Smith insisted Morrison be relevant in answering, the PM replied. “I’m happy to do that, Mr Speaker.” To which Smith retorted, “I don’t care whether you’re happy or not. You need to return to the question.”

On the same day, Smith also dealt sharply with the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, and brutally with Health Minister Greg Hunt who was repeatedly refusing to sit down when told. “The minister for health can resume his seat, full stop. I’m not going to be ignored,” Smith said.

Subsequently he told parliament: “Obviously in the course of the last week I’ve enforced the standing orders vigorously. I intend to keep doing that.” He said the reason was “to get an improvement in parliamentary standards”.

Morrison said in a Wednesday statement: “Tony has been an outstanding Speaker, in the true Westminster tradition”.

He said 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.

“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.”

Manager of opposition business Tony Burke tweeted on Wednesday: “Tony Smith leaving will be a huge loss to the parliament. He’s one of the only speakers in history to have been nominated by the government and seconded by the opposition. He’s been consistent, principled, and most importantly fearless.”

At the last election Smith held Casey on a two-party vote of 54.6%-45.4%.

Smith said in his statement he had been first elected 20 years ago this November “and have had the honor of being re-elected on six occasions making me the longest serving Member for Casey”.

He said his announcement now gave the Liberal party time to choose the best candidate for the election.

If the Coalition is re-elected it will be looking for two new presiding officers. Senate president Scott Ryan, also from Victoria, announced some time ago he would not be standing for another parliamentary term.

In the meantime, in the remaining parliamentary weeks between now and the election, which is expected in March or May, Smith will continue his quest to improve behaviour.




Read more:
New Speaker Tony Smith promises a less partisan approach


The Conversation


Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Liberal MP Craig Laundy confirms he will quit


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Former minister Craig Laundy, a close friend of Malcolm Turnbull, has finally confirmed he will quit at the election, leaving the Liberals highly vulnerable in his marginal Sydney seat of Reid.

Laundy said he needed to spend more time with his family, who had faced challenges over the past 12 months.

His exit has been anticipated for months. Scott Morrison failed to talk him into recontesting and then reportedly asked him to delay while a search was underway to find a strong candidate.

Reid is on a margin of less than 5%. Labor’s candidate, Sam Crosby, has already a well-established campaign running in the seat.

Laundy previously held various frontbench positions, culminating in the post of minister for small and family business, the workplace and deregulation in the Turnbull government.

But after the overthrow of Turnbull he said he did not want to be considered for the ministry in the Morrison reshuffle.

Laundy said in a statement on Friday: “The reality of modern politics is that, more often than not, a member of parliament has to put their constituents ahead of their family, something I’ve done over the past six years.

“It’s now time to focus on my family, who I have spent so much time away from”.

He said over the past year, his family had faced a number of challenges, “and as a father, husband and son, I’ve made the difficult decision to quit politics to put them first”.

Emphasising his family’s long association with the area of his electorate, Laundy said: “In the years to come, I will be able to walk around this part of Sydney with the fifth generation of my family, my grandkids, and be able to point to things and proudly say, ‘You know what, Grandpa had something to do with that.’”

Laundy’s planned departure follows announcements by a number of senior government figures that they will not contest the election.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Australia is one of the world’s best places to retire, or is it?



File 20180329 189795 kzxsmm.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Happiness in retirement isn’t the same for everyone.
Tom Carmony/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Rafal Chomik, UNSW and David Rodgers, UNSW

Australia is ranked in the top third of countries in almost all indices measuring the best countries to retire, according to our analysis of nine separate ageing and retirement indices.

The problem is, experts contriving such indices can’t agree about which ingredients should be included and which are most important.

The flaw of averages

While composite ageing indices provide us with what appear as simple comparisons, the underlying methodologies are complex, prone to judgement, and can be tweaked to obtain certain results.

Using indicators that aggregate outcomes for the older population within a country also ignores differences between people within this population. Sub-indices by gender and more granular age-groups do exist, but one improvement could include an inequality adjustment based on outcomes by socioeconomic status or income.

What about just asking people about their life? Studies that compare differences in people’s own evaluations of life across countries show these are substantially explained by social and economic differences across countries. And when comparing individuals in high-income countries such as Australia and Britain, good physical and mental health appear most correlated with life satisfaction, while in middle-income countries like Indonesia, income is more important.

But that doesn’t differentiate by age. When the OECD asked older people across rich countries what mattered to them, they said that “health” and “environment” were most important while “civic engagement”, “community” and “income” domains were less so. By contrast, younger groups attributed less weight to “environment” and more to “income”.

Such indices usually involve scoring a country in several categories and combining these into a composite score and ranking. Done well, these can reveal how life in one location is better than another and in which categories it is lagging.

So what do existing indices suggest is important for older people’s well-being? And which countries come out on top?

Ingredients for a good old age

The ingredients used in an overall index differ, ranging from the employment rates of older people in each country, to their political participation, income, levels of exercise, and life expectancy.

These indicators and weights are often chosen subjectively by experts constructing each index. Some comparisons focus on current standards of living and comprise social, environmental, health, and economic indicators. These are probably more immediately relevant to people.

By contrast, indices that aim to measure the likely future for older people mostly comprise financial indicators and those that relate to retirement income system design, demography, and economic conditions. These are probably of greater concern for those thinking ahead about the impacts of population ageing.

Where to retire?

Despite the flaws with such comparisons, few people can help themselves. So how does your country rank?

European countries – particularly Nordic ones – are consistently highly ranked across ageing indices (see figure below). Such results reflect their high health outcomes, high incomes, generous social welfare, and comparatively well-designed retirement income systems. These are also countries that top the subjective happiness rankings.

https://cdn.theconversation.com/infographics/251/a4b6d81ee4291bb9594ed94e7418ca580cb214a7/site/index.html

Lower and middle-income countries receive lower rankings from the current well-being indices in which they feature. India and China, where there is low public provision for retirement, occupy high rankings among indices that emphasise fiscal sustainability over the quality of life of older people.

Australia is ranked in the top third of countries in almost all indices. It ranks particularly highly in the Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index, largely due to the design of its retirement income system.

The ConversationFor what it’s worth, one could take an index of these indices to summarise. Such an index, call it the CEPAR meta-index of ageing, indeed shows Nordic countries taking the top three places, followed by Australia and the US, with the UK coming somewhere in the middle of 25 countries – apparently well ahead of places like France and Italy. Something to ponder when contemplating the good life in old age.

Rafal Chomik, Senior Research Fellow, ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR), UNSW and David Rodgers, PhD Student in Economics, UNSW

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

CRICKET: HE’S GONE – Matthew Hayden Retires


With the writing seemingly on the wall as far as his continued selection in the Australian test team was concerned, Matthew Hayden today retired from representative cricket effective immediately.

As I have been saying for some time (including on this Blog) it is well past time for Matthew Hayden to be dropped from the Australian side and/or for him to retire. His form just didn’t warrant his further inclusion in the team.

Without doubt Hayden was a brilliant player and a cricket star for Australia in the past, but those days have been gone for some time and it was sad to see a player’s decline live on cricket fields around the world and especially at home. Thankfully Matthew Hayden didn’t continue on with his stated intention of continuing to play for Australia – for both Australia and for himself.

Well done Matthew Hayden on a brilliant career and best wishes for the future.