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Marshall welcomes new ministers in reshuffle he didn't want

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Premier Steven Marshall has sworn in a new-look cabinet he admits he never wanted, featuring as many ministers called David as it does women and two first-term MPs who will take on the “heavy responsibility” of guiding South Australia through one of its most challenging economic crises.

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“It was never my intention to reshuffle the cabinet at this point of the cycle, but here we are with a new cabinet being sworn-in today,” Marshall told reporters before this morning’s ceremony at Government House.

“It does, I think, have a good blend of people with experience and then some new, fresh ideas coming into the cabinet. 

“It’s a day where these three new ministers will be taking on a heavy responsibility on behalf of the state.”

The Premier yesterday announced one of the least experienced ministries in the state’s political history and one that had the potential to cause internal division within the Liberal Party due to its notable lack of right faction representatives.

It follows a weekend ministerial exodus stemming from the country MP allowance scandal, with regional-based Liberal MPs, including former Transport Minister Stephan Knoll, Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone and Legislative Council president Terry Stephens, all resigning. 

Former Trade and Investment Minister David Ridgway also stepped down from the frontbench, forcing Marshall to reshuffle his frontline for the first time since the 2018 election.

The Premier yesterday confirmed the expected elevation of speaker Vincent Tarzia to Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Correctional Services – taking over from Corey Wingard, who has been appointed Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, while retaining the recreation, sport and racing portfolios.

New Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Corrections Vincent Tarzia after his swearing-in this morning. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

Victor Harbor-based MP David Basham has been sworn-in as Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, taking over from Whetstone, while former Holdfast Bay Mayor Stephen Patterson is now Minister for Trade and Investment.

There are currently just as many Davids and Steven/Stephens in cabinet as there are women, with Attorney-General Vickie Chapman, Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink and Child Protection Minister Rachel Sanderson the only female representatives.

Chapman was the only female MP to be rewarded by the reshuffle, taking on the additional responsibility of the planning and local government portfolio.

Marshall today said it was “reasonable” to question why two male backbenchers were elevated to ministerial roles over assistant ministers Carolyn Power and Jing Lee.

“I certainly would like to have more women in my partyroom and more women in my cabinet, but the portfolios that came up this time around best-suited the three people that have joined the ministry,” he said. 

“I’m sure we’ll have many more women in our cabinet going forward.”

Ahead of this morning’s ceremony, Marshall praised former ministers Knoll and Whetstone for their “extraordinarily good” tenures, despite urging the regional-based MPs over the weekend to resign from their ministerial roles.

He said former Transport Minister Knoll had “a great future in South Australian politics”, despite admitting the allowance scandal that shook the Government midway through the coronavirus pandemic needed to be “cleared up”.  

He also refused to speculate on whether Knoll could return to the Liberal frontbench in a prominent role if the party wins the next state election.

“I’m just not going to speculate what cabinets look like two, three, four years down the track,” Marshall said.

“I’m very satisfied that we’ve got the balance right with the cabinet arrangements that will be put in place today.”

Mount Compass dairy farmer Basham, who moved to Victor Harbor just after the 2018 election, today said he was “very confident” that he had not misspent taxpayers’ funds in relation to the country MP accommodation allowance.

Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development David Basham being sworn-in at Government House. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

He said he moved “to allow the farm to be run by someone else” while he was MP.

“I could not run the farm, I did not have the time, so I needed to move off the farm to allow it to be run,” he said.

 “That’s the way farms work.”

Asked if he moved property to make him eligible for the country accommodation allowance, Basham said: “definitely not”.

Marshall told ABC Radio Adelaide that he had “no reason to suspect that David Basham’s accommodation allowance has been sought and received inappropriately”.

There was ambiguity with regards to some of the allowances that were previously clearly allowed and post-November 2018 were not allowed, this is not something which was an issue for David Basham, it was an issue for Stephan Knoll, he repaid all of that money during that ambiguous period pending a determination from the remuneration tribunal,” he said.

Meanwhile, Patterson said he “certainly” didn’t expect to become a Minister.

“But I’m always working hard for South Australians to help Steven Marshall,” he said.

“I’m really looking forward to this Government delivering for South Australians.”  

Minister for Trade and Investment Stephen Patterson. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

Wingard, who takes on the “huge” portfolios of transport and infrastructure following on from Knoll, who was forced to back-down from a “once-in-a-generation” change to South Australia’s bus system only two weeks into consultation, said he was yet to determine his priorities in the new role.  

“I was sworn in a couple of minutes ago so let me draw my breath,” he said.

“All the projects are important – we’ve got to make sure we’re getting them out and rolling now.”

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