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"We're in a good space": Marshall laughs off Downer gossip

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State Liberal leader Steven Marshall has dismissed the latest rumblings around his tenure as akin to an April Fools’ gag, saying his party has learnt “many lessons” from its failed 2014 election campaign and is ready to launch a concerted challenge to the Weatherill Government.

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“We’re in a good space,” he told InDaily this morning.

“We have learnt many lessons from the result of the 201 election and we have a good plan to contest the 2018 election.”

A gossip column in the Fairfax-published Australian Financial Review today revived speculation about former Federal Foreign Minister Alexander Downer returning to South Australia to seize the state Liberal leadership.

A previous plan to parachute Downer in to rescue the party from Isobel Redmond’s flagging tenure came to nought when she stood down and was promptly replaced by Marshall.

Premier Jay Weatherill was happy to fan the flames this morning, telling ABC891: “I’ve chatted with Alexander about this and I’d be more than happy to see him back here in South Australia leading the Liberals.”

“I think there were lots of people pulling him in different directions, but I think he thought about it for a moment [but] I don’t spend a whole lot of time worrying about the Liberal Party,” Weatherill said.

“I think they’ve got enough on their plate themselves.”

I caught up with him just before Christmas or just after

But Marshall laughed off the scuttlebutt, saying he had a “great working relationship” with Downer, currently serving as Australia’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

“I caught up with him just before Christmas or just after Christmas,” said Marshall.

“I don’t want to be too flippant and say this is an April Fools’ joke… but it happened to fall on April Fools’ Day.

“I’m not giving it a second thought at all.”

He said his party room, which is historically notoriously divided, was “in a good position”.

“We’re over the halfway point of our very long electoral cycle… I don’t think anybody is really thinking about any leadership change,” he said.

He argued that the recent release of the Liberals’ 2036 manifesto, while derided in some quarters, was “followed up with good quality policy” such as yesterday’s push to legalise ride-sharing services, and that in time “people will start to see the real value of our 2036 manifesto”.

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