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"It seems pretty tacky to me": Libs sought files on sick Such

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Steven Marshall sought access to post-election correspondence between the former Weatherill Government and the late Bob Such, while the independent MP was on extended sick leave with a brain tumour that ultimately claimed his life.

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Every Freedom Of Information application made by the former Liberal Opposition between the 2014 and 2018 elections has been released under FOI laws – after being requested by the ALP – and published online.

The documents reveal that the now-Premier – then entering a new term as Opposition leader after Frome independent Geoff Brock backed Labor with his casting vote – sought access to “all correspondence and associated documents dated between 15 March 2014 and 23 March 2014 (inclusive) between the [Premier’s] department and Bob Such MP”.

A similar submission was made by Marshall for correspondence between the Premier’s office and Such.

The FOI request is dated April 3.

Such had withdrawn from negotiations with both parties and requested extended sick leave on March 22, a week after the March 15 election.

On March 29, he confirmed he had been diagnosed with a brain tumour and would undergo radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

He died on October 11.

His widow Lyn Such told InDaily she had contacted then-Premier Jay Weatherill, Brock and Marshall at her husband’s request to inform them of his illness.

“After that phone call, to put in an FOI about something involving Bob, it seems pretty tacky to me,” she said.

A spokesman for Marshall said the then-Opposition “would have been seeking details regarding negotiations conducted by the former government”.

“As was the case with many FOI requests we submitted while in Opposition, we would have been seeking to ensure there was transparency around government deals,” they said in a statement.

But Lyn Such declared the search would have been a “fizzer”, because “there were no offers made to Bob”.

Unsurprisingly, the former Opposition later put in similar requests for correspondence between Labor and Liberal defector Martin Hamilton-Smith, after he left the party he once led to prop up the Weatherill Government.

There were also several requests for documents relating to “the appointment of Rik Morris to the position of Executive Director, Implementation and Delivery” in the Premier’s Department, “as well as all documents relating to leading up to his appointment”.

Morris, a one-time media adviser to Weatherill and his predecessor Mike Rann, was sacked by interim Premier’s Department chief Erma Ranieri in March.

Another notable request for information came from Liberal frontbencher Corey Wingard in November last year.

The member for Gibson put in several concurrent requests for cabinet submissions about the allocation of additional staff resources to the office of former Labor-turned-independent MP for Mitchell, Kris Hanna.

According to the documents, on November 13 last year, Wingard sought details of the “Employment arrangement for a part-time Research and Policy Officer to Mr Kris Hanna MP, Member for Mitchell”.

It came just days after InDaily reported that Hanna was looming as a potential candidate for Gibson, which takes in much of the same footprint as his former electorate, at the March 2018 election.

In the event, Hanna stood for Nick Xenophon’s SA Best, but failed to win the seat.

The FOI requests comprised six of only eight FOI requests attributed to Wingard over the four-year period.

Wingard told InDaily the document search “wasn’t technically an FOI” because cabinet documents became publicly available under the 10-year rule, however, he had to request them through Freedom Of Information procedures.

In the event, he discovered that Hanna had been entitled to an extra staff member as an independent MP.

“I wasn’t fully aware of how it worked – being an independent, you got an extra staff member,” he said.

“It was just [about] getting insight into what the process was and what had gone on.”

The documents sought are dated between 2003 and 2005.

When pointed out that these would have been available earlier than November last year under the 10-year rule, Wingard said: “That’s a very fair point.”

“I’d have to go back and check… whether it was an oversight,” he said.

Hanna, who is still serving as Marion Mayor, said he had been “following a precedent set by [fellow independents] Karlene Maywald and Rory McEwen”.

He said Wingard’s inquiry into his staffing arrangements “didn’t worry me whatsoever”.

However, asked whether it was possible the Gibson MP was seeking political ammunition against a potential rival, he said: “I can understand why you’d speculate that.”

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