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'I didn't see it coming': McFetridge breaks silence on ousting

Politics

Disendorsed Liberal veteran Duncan McFetridge has told parliament his ousting was a personal vote of “no confidence” that left him no choice but to quit the Liberal Party.

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The former frontbencher, who lost the Liberal preselection by a single vote to Holdfast mayor Stephen Patterson last month, spoke in parliament today for the first time since confirming his defection to the crossbenches.

However, he is yet to confirm whether he intends to run as an independent in his bayside seat of Morphett at the state election next March.

Rising to speak on the annual supply bill, McFetridge noted that “every speech I’ve made on the supply bill” since he was elected in 2002 “has been as a member of the Liberal Party”.

“However recently the Morphett state electoral college met and preselected another person to represent the Liberal Party at the 2018 state election… in what I can only describe as a completely unforeseen outcome,” he said.

“This was ratified by state council last Friday week.

“As a result of what amounted in my view as a ‘no confidence’ decision, I saw no point in remaining as a member of the Liberal Party and have resigned from the party.”

Despite this, however, McFetridge acknowledged “the past support that has been given to me” by Opposition Leader Steven Marshall “and all my parliamentary colleagues”.

That’s despite Marshall sacking him from his shadow ministry in January, although he later pledged to back him as Speaker if the Liberals formed government.

It’s understood only one frontbencher, fellow moderate Rachel Sanderson, was present at the Morphett ballot to offer personal support.

McFetridge said it was his intention “to see out my remaining time in this place as an independent Liberal on the crossbench”.

I certainly know I’ll be interested to see the reaction from all my colleagues

“And I’ll look forward to continuing to work for the people of Morphett,” he said.

However, like fellow crossbencher Frances Bedford – who quit the Labor Party after a factional hijack in her seat of Florey – he is yet to announce whether he will be an election candidate.

“I am yet to decide on my long-term future,” he said.

“I will continue to consult with my family and friends and I will come back to this house with any announcement… and I certainly know I’ll be interested to see the reaction from all my colleagues in this place.”

Liberal deputy leader and fellow moderate Vickie Chapman rose to speak after him on the supply bill, but did not address his speech.

McFetridge catches up with former colleague Peter Treloar today. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

McFetridge also thanked his family and staff for their “undying support”, saying his ousting “has been a terrible impact on them”.

McFetridge was challenged in Morphett by both Patterson and fellow moderate Matt Williams, who has been linked to the seat since 2015.

At the time, McFetridge told InDaily he intended to continue because “frankly after 16 years in Opposition I’d like one term in government”.

“I was in Government for two hours and 55 minutes in 2002,” he lamented today.

“When we lost a confidence motion 23-22 we were put into Opposition.”

He also spurned an overture from the Labor Party in 2014 to jump ship and serve in Jay Weatherill’s cabinet as an independent – an offer later taken up by Martin Hamilton-Smith instead.

Ironically, he will now join his former leader as the only two nominally Independent Liberal MPs in state parliament.

Senator Nick Xenophon, whose fledgling SA Best party will field candidates at the state election, has acknowledged speaking to McFetridge since the Morphett ballot.

“I rang him up to wish him well – I always got on well with him,” he told InDaily today.

“It was a friendly, relatively short conversation.”

However he emphasised there was “no suggestion” McFetridge would join his new outfit.

“If he’s running as an independent Liberal, of course I’d rather support an independent Liberal or Labor candidate than an endorsed member of either party,” said Xenophon, who has also endorsed Bedford should she run in Florey.

But he said McFetridge’s prospective candidacy “doesn’t mean we won’t run someone in that seat”.

Morphett is unlikely to be a key target seat for Xenophon’s party, which has a foothold in the Adelaide hills and is also likely to target Labor-held seats in areas affected by the Transforming Health reforms.

“Obviously we’re keeping our options open,” Xenophon said.

“It depends on the process we’re undertaking now.”

He said he expected the candidate recruitment process to be completed “by July”.

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