David Smith (Australian public servant)

David Smith (Australian public servant)

Sir David Iser Smith, KCVO, AO, (born 9 August 1933) is a retired Australian public servant. He was the Official Secretary to the Governor-General of Australia between 1973 and 1990, serving Sir Paul Hasluck, Sir John Kerr, Sir Zelman Cowen, Sir Ninian Stephen and Bill Hayden.



David Smith was born in 1933, to Polish immigrant parents named Szmitkowski,[1] and was educated at Princes Hill State School, Scotch College, the University of Melbourne, and the Australian National University, Canberra, where he gained a Bachelor of Arts.

Smith began his career in the Australian Public Service in 1953, and was later appointed as Private Secretary to the Minister for Interior and Works from 1958 until 1963. He was then appointed Secretary to the Federal Executive Council and head of the Government Branch, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, from 1971 to 1973.[2]

In 1973, Smith was appointed Official Secretary to Sir Paul Hasluck, and became the first Secretary of the Order of Australia on its establishment in 1975.[2] After Hasluck's retirement, Smith then served Sir John Kerr and was present at the time of the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis. Following the dismissal of the Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, on 11 November 1975, he read out the proclamation of the dissolution of parliament on the steps of the then Parliament House in Canberra:

NOWTHEREFORE, I Sir John Robert Kerr, the Governor-General of Australia, do by this my Proclamation dissolve the Senate and the House of Representatives. Given under my Hand and the Great Seal of Australia on 11 November 1975.
By His Excellency's Command,
Prime Minister
God Save The Queen![3]

After Smith read the proclamation, Whitlam spoke to the large crowd that had gathered and indirectly referred to David Smith:

Well may we say "God save the Queen" because nothing will save the Governor-General. The proclamation you have just heard read by the Governor-General's Official Secretary was countersigned "Malcolm Fraser", who will undoubtedly go down in Australian history from Remembrance Day 1975 as Kerr's Cur.[4]

Smith served as Official Secretary until 1990, serving Sir Zelman Cowen, Sir Ninian Stephen and Bill Hayden. He was later appointed a Visiting Fellow in the Faculty of Law at the Australian National University for 1998 and 1999, and was a member of the 1998 Constitutional Convention.

Having retired from public life, Sir David is a member of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy and frequently gives addresses on constitutional matters. He is an ardent defender of Sir John Kerr, and highly critical of Gough Whitlam.[1] In 2005 Smith published an account of the events of 1975 and the other constitutional debates, Head of State, which was launched by former Governor-General Bill Hayden.[5] Smith lives in Canberra and can often be found at Old Parliament House leading guided tours.


  • On 9 June 1986, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for "service to the Crown, as Official Secretary to the Governor-General and as Secretary of the Order of Australia".[7]
  • On 1 January 2001 Sir David Smith was awarded the Centenary Medal for "services to Australian society through the Office of the Governor-General".[9]
Ribbon bars of John Sanderson

Royal Victorian Order UK ribbon.png

OrderAustraliaRibbon.png Order of St John (UK) ribbon.png Centenary Medal (Australia) ribbon.png Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal ribbon.png


  1. ^ a b c "Class of '75: dismissed but still falling out". Sydney Morning Herald. 2004-11-09. http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/11/08/1099781321073.html. Retrieved 2009-06-08. 
  2. ^ a b c "Official Secretary to give first-hand account of ‘the Dismissal’". University of New England. http://www.une.edu.au/news/archives/000588.html. Retrieved 2009-06-08. 
  3. ^ "Kerr's Proclamation Dissolving Parliament". whitlamdissmissal.com. http://whitlamdismissal.com/documents/dissolution-proclamation.shtml. Retrieved 2009-06-08. 
  4. ^ "Whitlam's speech". ozpolitics.info (Bryan Palmer). 1975-11-11. http://www.ozpolitics.info/guide/topics/dismissal/dismissal-speech/. Retrieved 2006-07-11. 
  5. ^ "Back in went the Queen, giving Gough his best line". Sydney Morning Herald. 2005-11-07. http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/back-in-went-the-queen-giving-gough-his-best-line/2005/11/06/1131211949484.html. Retrieved 2009-06-08. 
  6. ^ "It's an Honour - Commander of the Royal Victorian Order". Australian Government. http://www.itsanhonour.gov.au/honours/honour_roll/search.cfm?aus_award_id=1066843&search_type=quick&showInd=true. Retrieved 2009-06-08. 
  7. ^ "It's an Honour - Officer of the Order of Australia". Australian Government. http://www.itsanhonour.gov.au/honours/honour_roll/search.cfm?aus_award_id=884933&search_type=quick&showInd=true. Retrieved 2009-06-08. 
  8. ^ "It's an Honour - Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order". Australian Government. http://www.itsanhonour.gov.au/honours/honour_roll/search.cfm?aus_award_id=1130981&search_type=quick&showInd=true. Retrieved 2009-06-08. 
  9. ^ "It's an Honour - Centenary Medal". Australian Government. http://www.itsanhonour.gov.au/honours/honour_roll/search.cfm?aus_award_id=1127640&search_type=quick&showInd=true. Retrieved 2009-06-08. 

Further reading

  • Smith, David. Head of State:The Governor-General, the Monarchy, the Republic and the Dismissal (2005), Macleay Press. ISBN 1-876492-15-5
  • Kerr, John. Matters for Judgement (1979), Sun Press.

External links

Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Murray Tyrrell
Official Secretary to the Governor-General of Australia
Succeeded by
Douglas Sturkey

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