26 September 2023

Sir David Smith passes away

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Sir David delivers. Photo: National Library of Australia.

One of Australia’s most respected and prominent public servants, Sir David Smith has died, aged 89.

Sir David was the Official Secretary to five Governors-General between 1973 and 1991 when he retired, choosing to spend his free time as a guide at the Museum of Australian Democracy in the Old Parliament House in Canberra and a member of the ACT Australia Day Committee until it was abolished by the ACT Government in 2006.

Sir David drew national prominence in 1975 when he delivered in public the then Governor-General’s decision to remove the Australian Labor Party from government due to its inability to assure the Governor-General it could meet the ongoing payment of Her Majesty’s Public Servants.

His reading of the proclamation of the Governor-General’s dissolution of Parliament on the crowded steps of the old Parliament House, has gone down in history (Pictured).

David Iser Szmitkowski, was born in Melbourne on 9 August 1933 to Polish immigrants whose surname was later revised to ‘Smith’ when too many Australians had trouble pronouncing it.

According to many recent tributes to Sir David, while in Melbourne he attended the Princes Hill State School, Scotch College as well as the University of Melbourne. He later went to the Australian National University in Canberra.

Sir David (then just David) began his Public Service career in Melbourne in the Commonwealth Public Service in 1953.

Married in 1957, David and his wife, June moved to Canberra where he was appointed Private Secretary to the Minister for Interior and Works from 1958 until 1963.

David later became Secretary to the Executive Council (Exco) which is chaired by the Governor-General and later led the Government Branch of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet from 1971 to 1973.

He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1990.

Sir David is survived by his wife, June and three sons.

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