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WA Labor poised to appoint controversial SA staffer

Notes on Adelaide

In today’s Notes On Adelaide, the former SA Labor adviser poised for the party’s top job out west, and the SA Libs’ awkward attempt to advance women in leadership.

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WA’s SA Pick?

SA Labor is abuzz that one of its own appears set for the top gig in the WA ALP.

Tim Picton has since 2014 worked in senior roles for the Andrews Government in Victoria, including as senior adviser to Premier Daniel Andrews himself. Before that he spent a few years working for SA Senator Don Farrell and then as an adviser and strategist for the Weatherill Government.

If his name doesn’t ring a bell, you may be familiar with some of his work: Picton ran the 2014 Labor campaign for the state seat of Elder when Annabel Digance was running to replace the retiring Pat Conlon.

That campaign rose to infamy when the party distributed a leaflet attacking then-Liberal candidate Carolyn Habib.

It posited the question: “Can you trust Habib?”, which was widely seen as targeting her Lebanese background.

A year earlier, Jay Weatherill was forced to publicly apologise when Picton anonymously spread ‘fake news’ on Twitter about then-Boothby incumbent Andrew Southcott – whom Digance was trying to unseat in that year’s federal poll.

“Aren’t u on holiday in Fiji 4 the next two weeks? No dif than usual I guess”, wrote an account posting as @TIRP00 – later revealed to be Picton.

In issuing an immediate apology, the former Premier noted at the time: “I’m sure the staff member knows he’s created that embarrassment and I’m sure he’s chastened because of it.”

WA media have reported that Picton is the strong favourite for the state secretary gig – it’s understood he had a glowing reference from Andrews and has the endorsement of WA Premier Mark McGowan.

The job became vacant after the sudden resignation of predecessor Matt Dixon, which followed controversy over the use of state-raised funds flowing to federal campaign coffers.

But – despite the fact Labor is in government and is expected to win next year’s election – some in the party regard the role as one of the hardest in state politics, with WA’s warring factions requiring plenty of mediation.

It’s been reported former WA MP Megan Anwyl ruled herself out of contention, while it’s understood another former Weatherill adviser, current Port Adelaide Football Club China strategist Andrew Hunter, was also sounded out about the role.

It’s also been reported Picton – who didn’t return calls today – isn’t keen to take too much of a haircut from his lucrative current role, as Director of Strategy and Governance at Victoria’s Major Transport Infrastructure Authority.

However, it’s understood his wife Priya Brown – herself a senior Victorian Government adviser – hails from WA, while state secretary gigs are generally considered stepping stones into parliament.

Farrell told InDaily Picton would be “an excellent choice”, describing him as “very focussed, very organised”.

His brother, SA Opposition frontbencher Chris Picton, said: Tim would be a great get for WA Labor if they can get him – I obviously wish my brother all the best in whatever direction his career takes.”

Party games or political game-playing?

State Liberal frontbencher Rachel Sanderson has put persistent rumours about her political future to bed, guaranteeing she will recontest her seat of Adelaide at the next state election.

The conspiracy mill has been in overdrive that the MP would emerge as a surprise pick for the Upper House before 2022, while Business SA boss Martin Haese’s odd series of ‘Sustainability Sunday’ video chats continue to raise suspicions among the political class that he hasn’t given up his ambitions for public office – particularly given the spiels link to his personal website, rather than Business SA’s.

“Is he saying this as a Business SA spokesman or is it his personal views?” pondered one confused viewer.

Sanderson’s seat – if vacated – ties into the narrative doing the rounds, given Haese’s former role as Adelaide Lord Mayor.

However, Haese insisted the series was but one of his assorted hats, and put rumours of another political tilt to bed. Well, sort of.

“I’m entirely focussed on Business SA – I enjoyed my time in public life but I’m not in it and I don’t have any immediate intention to re-enter it,” he told InDaily.

In any case, such a Machievellian manoeuvre would be hard to pull off in the Liberal Party, where – as we saw with this month’s senate ballot – there can be no guarantees any given hopeful will get past the 200-strong state council.

Moreover, Sanderson’s ministerial spokesperson explicitly ruled out any Legislative Council move today.

So that’s the end of it. Right?

Vicki(e)

It’s certainly well-intentioned: a weekend forum by the Federal Women’s Committee and the SA Young Liberal Movement is advancing “Women in Leadership”.

However, the program does make one slightly unfortunate faux pas – the name of the state parliament’s most senior woman in leadership – Deputy Premier Vickie Chapman – is misspelled.

The typo is an old chestnut, mind you – just type “Vicki Chapman” into the search function of Twitter or Google to see the litany of well-credentialed members of the fourth estate cocking it up.

Still, the state Libs have a long line of historical form in mangling the spelling of their luminaries’ names: who could forget the 2002 election policy launch wherein the cover of the centrepiece document dubbed the then-Premier ‘Ron Kerin’?

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

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