Following another year of pandemic restrictions and socio-political upheaval, the McKinnon Prize in Political Leadership has recognised clear political vision, collaboration and the upholding of standards in awarding the achievements of former Speaker and Member for Casey, Hon Tony Smith MP and Mayor of Ipswich Teresa Harding for 2021.
The McKinnon Prize is a non-partisan annual award recognising courageous, visionary, ethical and collaborative political leadership. Winners of the Prize for Political Leader of the Year and Emerging Political Leader of the Year are determined by a panel of distinguished Australians, which this year included former Prime Minister Julia Gillard AC, former NSW Premier Mike Baird AO, Chancellor of the University of Technology Sydney (and Chair of Commonwealth Bank) Catherine Livingstone AO, and Chancellor of Macquarie University and former senior public servant Martin Parkinson AC amongst others.
Mr Smith has been awarded the 2021 McKinnon Prize in Political Leadership for his work in consistently and impactfully upholding Parliamentary standards and ensuring bipartisan accountability within the Parliament.
Beginning his career working as a senior adviser to Peter Costello AC, Mr Smith was elected to Parliament as the Member for Casey in 2001 and appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister John Howard in 2007. He became the Speaker of the House of Representatives in August 2015.
As Speaker, Mr Smith was an advocate for balanced and respectful debate, embracing his role as the arbitrator of democratic discourse in Parliament. Despite two years of pandemic lockdowns and frustrations, Mr Smith refused to allow the governing of the nation to be further disrupted, championing the first digital sittings of Parliament in Australia.
In accepting the Prize, Smith said he was honoured to be selected as the McKinnon Political Leader of the Year for 2021.
“Last year was the second year of the most significant public health crisis in 100 years, which presented unique challenges for the Parliament. In that context, I am humbled to be recognised by such a prestigious organisation and esteemed selection panel for my efforts as Speaker during this difficult period for Australia,” Mr Smith said.
“The Speaker’s role is critical in seeking to maintain respectful and open debate between members of the House of Representatives. While the title may be Speaker of the House, a Speaker is also Speaker for the House, ensuring that all Members get a fair go so that they can debate and express their point of view.”
“I pay tribute to the Susan McKinnon Foundation, which is dedicated to fostering and improving our democracy.”
Mayor of Ipswich Teresa Harding was awarded the 2021 McKinnon Emerging Political Leader of the Year for her demonstrated achievements and commitment to transparency and public accountability in political institutions.
A former member of the armed forces, Ms Harding entered local politics in March 2020, tasked with bringing a fresh start to a Council that had been beset by allegations of corruption. Within 12 months, Ms Harding has shown her ability to lead and inspire public confidence in local government.
In accepting the Prize, Ms Harding said she felt proud to be selected as the 2021 McKinnon Emerging Political Leader of the Year, and proud of what she achieved in Ipswich with her colleagues last year.
“As somebody who has always been an enthusiastic contributor to the community, it’s a wonderful surprise to be recognised by the McKinnon Prize for the work my colleagues and I have delivered in Ipswich, and to shine a light on the amazing work the team has achieved in 2021,” Ms Harding said.
“It’s very rewarding to be able to give back to my local community, and I look forward to continuing to do so in the coming years.”