Senior Liberals have attacked the legitimacy of the state Labor Government following the weekend’s deal between Premier Jay Weatherill and independent Geoff Brock to deliver the party power in South Australia.
Brock says he decided to back Labor to ensure the stability of government in South Australia, in the wake of revelations that fellow independent MP Bob Such will be facing surgery and at least two months’ leave.
Weekend counting of votes has confirmed that Labor will hold 23 seats and the Liberals 22 in the new parliament, with Brock and Such holding the balance of power.
In a move which “shocked” Liberal leader Steven Marshall, Brock fronted a press conference with Weatherill on Sunday morning to announce he would be supporting a minority Labor Government.
Federal Liberal minister Christopher Pyne today described the new Labor government as “illegitimate”.
“Jay Weatherill’s government is an illegitimate government,” he told reporters in Canberra.
Pyne said the Liberals had achieved 53 per cent of the two-party preferred vote in the March 15 state election.
He argued this showed the electorate boundaries were drafted in such a way that Labor could win the election with 47 per cent of the vote.
“That needs to be closely looked at,” he said.
Marshall said this morning that “I believe Jay Weatherill doesn’t have a mandate to govern”.
However, he told radio FIVEaa that he “accepted this result” and the party would focus on holding the government to account.
Marshall also criticised Brock, the member for the rural seat of Frome, who he said had opted for short-term stability instead of the long-term interests of the state.
He hardened his rhetoric on ABC radio later, saying the governance deal was a “death wish for South Australia”.
Weatherill sealed his deal with Brock after driving to Port Pirie on Saturday to meet with him after news broke of Such’s illness. Marshall said he spoke with Brock via the phone several times on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Weatherill this week is moving to establish a new government, hinting today that he might give up the Treasury portfolio and giving strong indications that two women would be elevated to the Cabinet to replace former ministers Chloe Fox and Grace Portolesi, both of whom lost their seats at the March 15 election.
It seems likely that the left’s Susan Close will be be elevated to Cabinet, while from the Right the options would be Leesa Vlahos or Zoe Bettison.
The announcement of the new Cabinet is likely to be at least a week away, however it is certain that Geoff Brock will be sworn in as regional development and local government relations minister. A position in the ministry was offered to him, he says, by both sides of politics.
Senior Labor MP Michael Atkinson, who now holds the safest Labor seat in South Australia, is likely to maintain his position as Speaker of the House of Assembly.
“I expect to be Speaker,” he told InDaily this morning. “I enjoy it very much and, modestly, I think I’ve done a good job.”
He added that he believed he had the confidence of the Liberal Opposition, as well as his own side of politics.
Labor’s Right and Left caucuses will meet this week, possibly as early as tomorrow, to discuss candidates for the ministry.
Weatherill told FIVEaa that he wanted to replace Fox and Portolesi with women to maintain female representation in the Cabinet.
“I think it’s important that we at least maintain that – if possible increase our representation,” he said.
“We’re proud of the fact that we do have very significant representation, probably better than many jurisdictions but there’s no good reason why women shouldn’t be represented equally in all of our institutions including Parliament and Cabinet.”
When asked if he would maintain the dual roles of Premier and Treasurer he said: “I think it was important that I stepped up in the way in which I did, in both of those roles, but that’s something I’m going to reflect on and we’ll obviously be making some announcements about that soon.”
The Premier also indicated his Government would change its approach, particularly to regional South Australia and business.
“Obviously you’ve got to listen to the result and the first thing is to try and get in step with what happened on Saturday, learn from the result,” he said. “Obviously we’re not well represented in the regions; it’s important for us to reach out to the regions.
“It’s clear the small business constituency hasn’t seen us as their representative, even though I’d argue that we’ve done a lot of very important things for them, so I’m going to reach out and obviously the people that supported us, we need to maintain the commitments we made to them throughout the election so there’s a lot of work to be done.
“I fully accept that there are be lessons to be learnt by us and we will learn them.”
InDaily understands there are also likely to be significant changes in Labor’s back rooms, with some long-standing political operatives looking to move on.
Brock defended his decision today, saying that supporting Labor would deliver the most stable government possible in the current situation.
In a statement, he said that if the party’s split 23 seats between them, the State Government would have continued in caretaker mode for two to three months waiting for Such to return to work.
“If that were to happen, long delays in decision-making could result in unfair increases in costs” to businesses, he said.
– with AAP
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