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Notes on Adelaide

Overhaul for SA Water board - and Labor's Senate ticket

Notes on Adelaide

In today’s Notes On Adelaide, new faces on the board at SA Water – and on SA Labor’s Senate ticket.

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Labor’s musical chairs leaves Chapley without a seat

The game of musical chairs in SA Labor’s federal seats is coming to a halt, with the close of nominations this week.

The fraught exercise was muddied, of course, by the controversial abolition of Left powerbroker Mark Butler’s safe seat of Port Adelaide, with the factions last month agreeing to a deal that would see the shadow minister for climate change and energy usurp factional colleague Steve Georganas’s neighbouring Hindmarsh electorate. Georganas, in turn, will shift to Adelaide – vacated by the retiring Kate Ellis – where he is the only nominee.

That deal was facilitated under an agreement that saw the Left faction cede the Right its Senate vacancy – which was understood to have been promised to Butler’s former chief-of-staff, and current adviser to state leader Peter Malinauskas, Karen Grogan.

It’s understood Marielle Smith, a confidant of former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, has been given the nod to take the winnable number two spot on the Senate ticket, pipping rival Right-winger Jo Chapley to the post.

She’ll be behind incumbent Alex Gallacher in top spot.

Chapley, who has narrowly failed to win two state seats – Dunstan and Adelaide – for Labor, has not responded to queries about whether her latest setback has clarified her intentions about a run for Lord Mayor against Martin Haese in Adelaide.

She may be rueing her decision to quit the Labor Left and defect to the Right after being offered the northern suburbs seat of King by her former faction, preferring the higher-profile seat of Adelaide.

Insiders are adamant if she had brought her campaigning heft to the marginal King, now held by Liberal Paula Luethen by just 0.7 per cent, she’d be sitting in parliament today.

SA Water’s boardroom clean-out

It’s not just Labor playing musical chairs, with the Marshall Liberal Government continuing to reshape key boards.

Long-time budget cash cow SA Water is the latest to receive a facelift, with former Defence SA supremo Andrew Fletcher taking over as chair for a three-year term.

He’ll be joined by businessman John Bastian, tax specialist Janet Finlay and chartered accountant Fiona Hele, while incumbents Ian Stirling and Sue Filby will stay on.

But three current members will move on – lawyer Sybella Blencowe, former Labor MLC Carolyn Pickles and Karlene Maywald, the former Nationals MP who held the Water portfolio in the Rann Government.

While there may be the usual wailing and gnashing of teeth in Labor ranks about the apparently political flavour of the departures, both Maywald and Pickles have confirmed they moved on of their own volition.

Pickles, chair since 2017, told InDaily she informed new Water Minister David Speirs after the election that she wanted to relinquish her seat on the board, but stayed on at his request until a new appointee could be found.

“It probably is appropriate with a change of government to let the government appoint who they wish to,” she said.

“But it was my second term [so] I feel it was probably time for me to hand it over – I really didn’t want to continue.

“It was nothing to do with the new government – it’s really my belief that people shouldn’t stay on boards forever and a day.”

Speirs said in a statement that it was “critical that SA Water has a board that provides strong direction and to deliver quality services at the lowest possible price for South Australian households and businesses”.

“The State Government has exciting plans that SA Water will be fundamental to delivering, including opening up our reservoirs for recreational activities and lowering the cost of living in SA,” he said.

The utility, whose profits have long helped bolster the budget bottom line, is seemingly perpetually at the centre of privatisation rumours.

Pickles said: “I wish SA Water the very best.”

“It’s a great company, it’s got a great CEO [Roch Cheroux], who I was on the board to appoint.

“Governments come and go, but I think SA Water will be there forever – I hope so anyway!”

Notes On Adelaide is a new column telling the inside stories of Adelaide people, institutions and issues. If you have information that you believe should be noted in this column, send us an email:

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