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Reshuffle looms as union boss says "I do"

Politics

A Weatherill Government reshuffle appears likely with Labor powerbroker and shopworkers union secretary Peter Malinauskas confirming he will put his name forward for Bernard Finnigan’s Upper House vacancy.

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Finnigan had remained in parliament as an independent since his arrest on child pornography charges in 2011. He was found guilty of obtaining child pornography last week and relented to relinquish his seat.

Malinauskas, who was urged to stand by Premier Jay Weatherill, is unlikely to face any serious opposition, and will carry the endorsement of both the party’s left and right factions.

The current Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association boss was one of two powerbrokers – along with Health Minister Jack Snelling – who faced then Premier Mike Rann in 2011 and urged him to resign in favour of Weatherill.

“After careful consideration, I will today put forward my nomination to become a Member of the Legislative Council in State Parliament,” he said in a statement this morning.

“The Premier’s request to nominate comes at both a challenging and exciting time in South Australia.

“If my nomination is successful, I look forward to being part of the State Labor team and working together to ensure South Australia not only meets these challenges, but also continues to prosper as a state.”

However, it appears inconceivable that he will be left to languish on the backbench, and his elevation is likely to be used to reinvigorate a stagnant Upper House team.

Labor’s current Legislative Council leader Gail Gago – a left-winger – told Channel 7 on Monday that she was “very happy where I am at the moment (but) I’m keeping all my options open”.

Asked whether she felt her position under pressure, she replied: “That’s politics.”

The Finnigan vacancy – whenever it occurred – had been long promised to former ALP state secretary Michael Brown, who was blindsided by the Premier’s approach to Malinauskas. However, he tweeted his support this morning.

Malinauskas said as a union leader he had “sought to develop collaborative relationships with both businesses and workers to ensure good outcomes for working people”.

“This is something I can continue as a Member of Parliament,” he said.

“I will now let proper party process take place and speak with members of the ALP State Executive and members of the party to ask for their support.”

He said he would make no further comment “until this process has run its course”.

The ALP state executive will elect its newest MLC on Friday afternoon.

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