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"Faceless men" invoked as Darley splits with Xenophon

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UPDATED | Premier Jay Weatherill has invoked the “faceless men” attack so often levelled against his own Labor Party to critique Nick Xenophon’s fallout with his only state MP.

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John Darley, who replaced Nick Xenophon in state parliament’s upper house when he sought a senate seat in 2007, yesterday quit both the Nick Xenophon Team and the fledgling SA Best, calling the party leader a “dictator”.

Asked about the falling out today, Weatherill was quick to make political mileage, alluding to Xenophon’s previous high-profile split from his previous running mate Ann Bressington.

“It’s fascinating isn’t it… Nick Xenophon once again has misplaced his only MP in SA parliament,” Weatherill said.

“I was fascinated to hear about the partyroom meeting that determined this very detailed policy position [since] there is only one MP here in SA… so I’m fascinated to know who was in this meeting that arrived at a policy position that somehow Mr Darley has now breached,” he said.

“It does raise questions about who are the people that are dictating to SA members of parliament on how they should vote or not vote… apparently Mr Darley was going to be expelled because he chose to do something differently than he was told at a meeting of people who are not known to us.”

Weatherill noted the situation was a “classic faceless men scenario”.

“Who is governing SA members of parliament when they make decisions here?” he pondered.

“Democracy should really be in the hands of elected members of parliament… and I think there are real questions to be asked about how that particular political party goes about its business.”

Darley quit on Thursday, a day before a scheduled meeting of the organisation to consider his expulsion for breaching party rules.

The crunch came when he recently sided with the Labor government to back reforms to voting for the upper house which could make it more difficult for minor party and independent candidates to get elected.

He said he did not regret his decision and believed it was a case of accepting the government’s proposals “or get nothing” in the way of voting reforms.

“In the best interests of South Australia, I voted for the Labor Party amendment,” Darley said.

He said he tried to talk to Xenophon about the vote but received no reply to his six calls.

But Xenophon said Darley’s resignation had simply averted his expulsion on Friday.

He defended his party’s policy-making process and its position on electoral reform.

“We had meetings (to set) party policy in terms of electoral reform which is a very important issue for us to ensure the major parties don’t get further entrenched,” Xenophon told ABC Radio Adelaide.

“We have a very fair system; we just wanted to replicate the system we have federally, which is the fairest possible system. It gets rid of all the problems we’ve had with other electoral systems.

“John decided to vote with the Government which will make it easier for the major parties and harder for smaller parties and independents to get a leg-up in the Legislative Council. It was a big issue for us and John defied that.

“We have a good process with my colleagues, we thrash out issues, we work on a consensus basis, we’re very collegiate with each other. That’s the way it should be. It wasn’t that way with John. He’s a lovely bloke, he’s a good guy but we just couldn’t agree on these issues.”

Darley is not due for re-election again until 2022.

He said he intended to serve until then as an independent and his new status would not change anything in regard to how he might vote on other issues, including his opposition to the state government’s controversial bank tax.

– with AAP

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