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Independents' day: seat swaps that could turn the next election

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Former Labor MP-turned-independent Frances Bedford could turn the next state election on its head as she considers a tilt at the Marshall Government’s most marginal seat.

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Bedford told InDaily she would consider her options after a recent electoral boundary redistribution shifted a significant chunk of her Florey electorate – which she retained as an independent after serving there as a Labor MP since 1997 – into neighbouring Newland.

Newland is held by Liberal Richard Harvey with a slim nominal margin of 0.2 per cent following the redistribution.

It comes as another independent MP – former Weatherill Government minister Geoff Brock – prepares to fight for his political future against Energy and Mining Minister dan van Holst Pellekaan, who has confirmed he will recontest his Port Augusta-based seat of Stuart.

But the redraw has also shifted Brock’s electoral heartland of Port Pirie from Frome to Stuart, with Brock confirming: “I’ve got to go where Port Pirie is, and that’s in the new Stuart.”

In a week in which Liberals Stephan Knoll and Peter Treloar declared they would pull the pin at the 2022 poll, Liberal state director Sascha Meldrum has confirmed that the party’s 22 other lower house incumbents have nominated unopposed for their existing seats – including van Holst Pellekaan in Stuart.

Brock said van Holst Pellekaan came to see him yesterday after putting in his nomination “and let me know he’d done that”.

“We’ve been friends for years so it was good of him to come,” he said.

“I’m disappointed Port Augusta has been split into two electorates – that’s an utter disgrace, irrespective of politics… going forward Upper Spencer Gulf will only have two representatives in state parliament – I personally think it’s a kick in the rear end, essentially for the powerhouse [region] of the state, where everything’s going to be produced in the next four or five years.”

If Brock is successful, however, it would merely retain the status quo in terms of seats – but Bedford’s prospective move could effectively snatch the Liberals’ most vulnerable seat, while also gifting Labor her current seat of Florey.

If no other seats changed hands, that would give the Liberals 23 seats to Labor’s 20, with four independents – effectively creating a hung parliament.

The redistribution has moved Modbury – for whose hospital Bedford has spent years campaigning – from Florey to Newland, while bringing other Labor areas such as Mawson Lakes and Parafield into her existing seat.

“We’re had a brief look at it,” she told InDaily.

“I don’t know yet [what I’ll do] – there’s a lot to consider… I feel really close to the people who elected me last time but Mawson Lakes and Parafield are quite a way from my white-ant infested home – and quite a way from Modbury Hospital.”

Asked if that meant she was minded to contest Newland instead, she said: “Not necessarily, but it’s a fact I suppose.”

“I haven’t given it a lot of thought… but it’s a long way away and that’s a huge problem in itself.”

She said it would “probably be more of a challenge to run in new ‘new Florey’”, which party sources have linked with Meagan Spencer, a staffer to Right-faction senator Don Farrell.

However, it could also provide an avenue for federal MP for Spence Nick Champion to make his expected shift to state parliament, which was thwarted when the boundaries commission changed its mind about shifting the boundaries in Schubert, which would have seen current Light MP Tony Piccolo vacate his seat to contest the Barossa Liberal stronghold instead.

Champion’s name has also been linked to the northern suburbs seat of Taylor, but incumbent Jon Gee told InDaily he intended to run there again.

It’s understood Labor will soon confirm a candidate for Newland, with the party’s former MP for the seat Tom Kenyon endorsing his former staffer Lucas Jones.

“I’m absolutely convinced that Lucas is the best chance of winning that seat and I’ll be doing everything I can to help him,” he said.

InDaily however understands that senior figures have ruled Jones out for the north-eastern electorate.

Of Bedford’s prospects in his former seat, Kenyon said: “I’ve always thought that an independent would have a good chance in Newland [and] by taking a marginal seat she’d deal herself a better hand in terms of negotiations in the event of a hung parliament.”

However, others in the party said Bedford would be “crazy” to consider leaving Florey.

“It’s not like I’m desperate for a role in public office,” she said.

“I feel beholden to the people who elected me last time – the great people of ‘New Florey’ – and Ingle Farm and Pooraka.

“It’s really hard for people who follow their MP to have to go through this every four years, so it’s going to be a hard decision any way – but we still haven’t made up our mind.”

Former Adelaide United star – and current administrator – Bruce Djite appears unlikely to contest Labor-held Badcoe after an enticing two per cent margin in the draft boundaries report was bolstered beyond four per cent for incumbent Jayne Stinson in the final report.

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