"The failure to properly explain the Liberal Party's broadband policy and the Labor Party's effective scare campaign was a major cause of the party's failure to win seats in Tasmania." "In the view of many, the party's policy amounted to a threat to come into people's homes and rip the internet out of the wall."It didn't help that Smith, alongside then-opposition finance spokesman Andrew Robb, announced the Coalition's policy in a sweaty, rushed press conference just six days out from the 2010 election, and a mere half an hour before a debate between Smith, then-communications minister Stephen Conroy and the Greens' Scott Ludlam. The policy was essentially to sell off what had been built so far, subsidise the rest, and let the market decide what broadband Australia should have. It didn't go down well with the public or the telecommunications industry. It also wasn't helped by Abbott fronting 7.30 that night clearly not across the policy, and telling Kerry O'Brien: "I'm no Bill Gates here, and I don't claim to be any kind of tech head in all of this." Independent MP Tony Windsor cited the National Broadband Network policy as the reason why he had decided to form a minority government with Labor, with his infamous "do it with fibre" speech. After that, Smith was demoted to the parliamentary secretary to tax reform, while Turnbull was brought in to "demolish" the government on the NBN by essentially neutralising it as a winning policy for Labor. "Who better to hold the government to account than Malcolm Turnbull, who has the technical and business expertise to entirely demolish the government [on broadband]?" Abbott said at the time. Five years later, and Turnbull is heralding the achievements of the NBN rollout, which is only just now moving away from Labor's fibre-to-the-premises model towards the "multi-technology mix" that will use the Telstra copper network, along with the Optus and Telstra pay TV cable networks. At the time of the demotion, Abbott said Smith still had an important role to play, but speaking on Smith's parliamentary career today, Abbott commented that never really came into fruition. "You have met with some disappointments," he said. Smith is not the party political warrior that Bishop is, and he has said he will sit out of "regular" Liberal party room meetings. All eyes will be on Smith during his first question time as Speaker tomorrow -- there is no question time today, with condolence motions over the death of WA Liberal MP Don Randall instead. Labor will no doubt want to test the new Speaker's resolve to be more balanced than his predecessor, who ejected Labor MPs more than 400 times during her tenure, while her total for Liberal MPs ejected remained in single digits. "Serving as Speaker is a privilege, not a prize. A responsibility, not a reward," Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said today. "Today is a chance to lift the standards of this Parliament, to return them to a level which Australians rightly expect of their representatives. Mr Speaker, much of this challenge falls upon your shoulders. You can make this a place where straightforward questions get straightforward answers. "Where the words 'direct relevance' carry real meaning. Where the Speaker manages debate, without seeking to participate in it. And where standing orders, including 94A, are applied fairly to both sides of the house." Smith's work as the chair for the joint committee for electoral matters will likely give him some credentials now taking the Speaker role. Incidentally, Crikey founder Stephen Mayne tells us that Smith, a keen Holden fan, once visited the Crikey bunker back in 2001 to see a Holden Monaro Mayne had for sale. Smith didn't end up buying the car, but lamented to Mayne that the Howard government wasn't getting much credit for lowering car prices with the introduction of the GST.
Mr Smith goes to Canberra: meet your new Speaker
Who exactly is Tony Smith? Crikey takes a close look through his past (and expenses) to acquaint ourselves with the new Speaker.