The ACT Government has appointed longstanding Liberal MLA Brendan Smyth as the territory’s first commissioner for international engagement starting from August 1, meaning there is likely to be a count back to fill his seat in the electorate of Brindabella for the last few weeks before the election in October.
Mr Smyth, who is deputy leader of the Liberals in the Assembly and treasury spokesman, will leave the Legislative Assembly after 18 years to take up the position, and will therefore not run for re-election in the electorate of Brindabella in October as previously announced.
The Canberra Liberals are expected to name a replacement candidate for the five-seat electorate. Nominations for the candidates open on September 9 and close on September 21.
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Given there are two remaining sitting weeks of this Government in August, the usual process for filling a casual vacancy in the Assembly via a count-back is likely to occur.
The Speaker has yet to write to ACT Election Commissioner Phil Green to alert him to the casual vacancy. Once she does, he is required to publish a notice inviting unsuccessful candidates in the electorate at the last election to participate in the countback for the vacancy on the Elections ACT website and in the media.
Unsuccessful candidates who ran in the seat of Brindabella at the last election then have ten days to express their intention to run. At noon on the tenth day, the names of those eligible will be entered into the computer for a count back of the votes that elected Mr Smyth.
The only Liberal candidate who contested the 2012 election and would be eligible is Tharwa Store operator Val Jeffery, given Nicole Lawder and Andrew Wall are already in the Assembly and Zed Seselja is now a Federal Senator.
Other possibilities if Mr Jeffery decides against running include the Greens’ Amanda Bresnan and Labor’s Rebecca Cody.
Mr Smyth has released the following statement this morning:
After 21 years of public service and 18 years in the Legislative Assembly, I today announce my resignation as an MLA.
I wish to thank the people of Brindabella for their support over the years and the trust they’ve placed in me to represent them. Thank you for that honour.
I thank my colleagues; it has been an honour and a pleasure to be a member of the Liberal Party room over the past 18 years.
I have accepted a role as the new Commissioner for International Engagement for the ACT.
To my wife Robyn, daughters Amy and Lorena and son David I say thank you for everything you have done for me.
Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson has also issued a statement:
“It is with warm congratulations that the Canberra Liberals team and I bid farewell to Brendan Smyth today. Over his past 18 years in the Assembly and as a member of the Canberra Liberals Party room, Brendan has been a loyal servant for the Canberra community,” Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Hanson said today.
“First elected to the Federal House of Representatives in 1995 at a by-election, Brendan served in the Federal Parliament before being elected to the ACT Legislative Assembly in 1998. He’s since had a distinguished career in the Assembly, including several years as Leader of the Canberra Liberals,” Mr Hanson said.
“Brendan has been a mentor for many Canberra Liberals MLAs over the years, including myself and his experience and expertise in policy and Assembly procedure has held the Canberra Liberals in good stead.
“I speak for the whole Canberra Liberals team in wishing Brendan Smyth all the best his future role as Commissioner for International Engagement. Brendan has a true passion for Canberra and his enthusiasm will be put to good use.
“Congratulations Brendan and thank you for your for you service to Canberra. We all look forward to it continuing for years to come,” Mr Hanson concluded.