Former Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) officer and South Australia’s first Defence and Space Industries Minister, Martin Hamilton-Smith, is stepping down from state politics after 21 years of service.
The minister, who holds portfolios in trade, defence, space, small business' and veterans affairs, will be standing down from cabinet after its first meeting of the year, on 18 January 18, with his portfolios to be taken over by SA Premier Jay Weatherill until the election.
"It’s been an honour to serve this state and my local electorate of Waite for the past 21 years," Minister Hamilton-Smith said on Twitter.
"I’m ready for a new chapter and more time with my family, who has given me unwavering love and support all these years."
The former Australian Army officer was elected to state parliament in 1997 as the Liberal MP for Waite but after the 2014 state election delivered a hung parliament, Hamilton-Smith defected from the Liberal Party to become an "Independent Liberal" MP and joined the Labor cabinet as the Minister for Trade, Defence Industries and Veteran's Affairs. He was then appointed Space Industries Minister in September 2017.
Minister Hamilton-Smith, who commanded Australia's first counter-terrorist assault force in the SAS in 1980, is now backing Nick Xenophon's SA Best party candidate Graham Davies for the state seat of Waite.
The former Army officer was instrumental in lobbying the federal government to build Australia's 12 Future Submarines in Adelaide and not overseas. Minister Hamilton-Smith also joined forces with the ACT in August last year pushing the agenda for a national space agency. South Australia has since established its own space agency, South Australian Space Industry Centre (SASIC), which is building on the work of the existing space industry office at Defence SA to drive space industry innovation, research and entrepreneurial development.
Minister Hamilton-Smith has also helped SA foster more collaborative relationships with other states and territories, joining forces with Victoria's Minister for Industry and Employment Wade Noonan and Western Australia's Minister for Defence Issues Paul Papalia in July last year to address their concerns about the Future Submarine Program (FSP), Australia's largest ever defence acquisition. The ministers wrote a letter to the Senate economics committee to call for tougher contractual obligations on the prime contractors for the Future Submarine Program.
Together with Defence SA and its advisory board, Minister Hamilton-Smith also released the South Australian Government Defence Strategy 2030 at the end of 2017.
The strategy, which outlines how the state can accelerate defence investment, create export opportunities and grow its defence workforce, reflects on changes in the defence landscape since the release of the federal government's 2016 Defence White Paper, the Naval Shipbuilding Plan and the announcement of a national space agency.
The new strategy, launched at Boeing Defence Australia's Adelaide office, aims to position the state as a national leader in innovation as it works to create more high-tech jobs over the next decade and beyond. Currently, it estimates there will be 6,000 direct jobs in SA, with more in the supply chain, in SA's defence sector over the next decade.