Former South Australian attorney-general and veteran MP Michael Atkinson is to become the speaker in state parliament.

Premier Jay Weatherill has confirmed Mr Atkinson will take up the role following a move by current speaker Lyn Breuer to step down from the position.

Mr Atkinson was elected to parliament in 1989 and served as a minister from 2002 to 2010 under former premier Mike Rann.

He quit the ministry after the 2010 poll.

Under changes to parliamentary rules introduced last year, the speaker now has greater powers to discipline MPs, including the ability to eject unruly members almost without warning.

Mr Atkinson is now set to be elected to that role when parliament resumes in February, taking charge of the House of Assembly which includes his partner, Education Minister Jennifer Rankine.

Ms Breuer became speaker after the 2010 election and was the first woman to hold the position.

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