Bass MP Ken Smith made a visit to the Bass Coast Summer Agricultural Show last Saturday when he chatted with Show Secretary Rosemary Loughnan and met ‘The Pink Lady’ Leonie Deavin-Joseph prior to announcing his intention to retire at the next election.
Victorian Parliament at stake in an election year, the beleaguered Member for Bass, Ken Smith, is almost certain to stand down as its Speaker when Parliament resumes on February 4.
He told the Sentinel-Times as much in an exclusive interview during a visit to the Wonthaggi show last Saturday.
At 69 years of age, he has also opted not to recontest the seat of Bass at the 2014 election on November 29 but he will continue representing the area until then.
“I wish to announce that I will not be re-contesting the seat of Bass at the next state election. I made this decision on the basis that my family and I have committed to more than 30 years of community service through Local Council and State Parliament,” Mr Smith said.
“It has been an honour and privilege to represent and serve firstly the people of South East Province and for the last 11 years, as the member for Bass. I wish to thank all the members of the community for their friendship and support throughout the years.”
After the abolition of South East Province in 2002, Mr Smith opted to take on Independent Susan Davies in the new seat of Bass, and against the tide of a Coalition loss, he was the only Liberal to make a gain for his side.
“This is now a safe Liberal seat, built up from nothing and I would like to see as wide a field as possible for Liberal Party pre-selection,” Mr Smith said.
He hinted that some Liberal heavyweights were already manoeuvring to parachute in a high-profile candidate into the plum position but he said he was against such an idea.
“The people of Bass deserve to get the best available person to represent them, someone who is as fully committed to the job as I feel I have been over the 11 years since I was first elected here.
“We want someone who can put in the time and effort to represent the area properly.
“I came down here when Susan Davies left and some people said I’d never live here but I did straight away. Initially we moved to Inverloch and then to San Remo where we are now and I’ve loved every bit of it.
“I don’t want to see some high-flyer from Melbourne parachuted in for the job.
“Under the new boundaries, it would take a swing of 12.4 per cent for the seat to change hands, which is unlikely, so the Liberal pre-selection is all important and I would like to see a big field of candidates, half a dozen at the minimum.
“We’ve got a lot of good people down here who could do it and, I’d preferably like to see a good local person to do it or someone who is prepared to live here and work hard for the community.”
At the age of 69, Mr Smith said he had given it some thought over the Christmas break, and with his wife Dawn and sons Matt, Adam and Nick had made his decision.
“Before the last election, Dawn asked me if I was still enjoying it and I said yes I was, very much, and we decided to run again.”
Mr Smith said he was proud to have been elected Speaker of the Parliament and, under the tremendous pressure brought to bear by a one seat majority, he felt he’d done a good job.
“I would like to stay on as Speaker, yes, but we have a joker from Frankston who doesn’t like me, or he said he doesn’t.
“Be that as it may, the behaviour of the Labor Party has been absolutely appalling and when all this is over, I’ll tell you about it.
“They’ve targeted me and if I can’t discipline these people, my position becomes untenable.”
Mr Smith said he hadn’t only felt undermined by the ALP MPs but also by some of his own colleagues who now wanted him to go.
So what’s going to happen on February 4 when State Parliament resumes?
“Two things can happen. It’s either up to the Parliament or it’s up to me. It’s a matter of how I read it.”
But Mr Smith, as a traditional Liberal man, has given the Sentinel-Times the firm indication that he intends to fall on his sword and resign in the best interests of the operation of the Parliament, the people of Victoria and the party.
By February 4, he will have presided over three of the most tumultuous years in the history of the Victorian Parliament but, in the end, the Independent Member for Frankston, Geoff Shaw, and the Labor Opposition will have got their man.
In November last year, the Opposition Leader, Daniel Andrews, called on Mr Smith to resign, saying at the time: “His position is untenable, the only person who doesn’t agree with that is the Speaker.”
It seems he does now.
“Over the past 25 years I am proud to have served as a member of the Liberal Party in the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly, under the leadership of Premiers Jeff Kennett, Ted Baillieu and Denis Napthine.
“I wish to thank my wife and sons for their support and sacrifices that they had made over the years, as I would not have been able to do this job without their commitment.
“Thank you to all my staff for their hard work and dedication representing me and looking after my constituents over the years.
“To my colleagues and friends from the Liberal Party, especially to the branch members within the electorate, thank you for all your support and commitment.”