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New blood to exorcise Finnigan's ghost

Politics

The spectre of fallen Labor high-flyer Bernard Finnigan hung over today’s joint sitting of parliament to install union powerbroker Peter Malinauskas into the Legislative Council.

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Premier Jay Weatherill told ALP colleagues: “We in the Labor Party must accept responsibility for the fact it was one of our own who diminished the standing of this parliament with his behaviour.”

As the parliamentary clerk introduced the proceedings, she repeatedly referenced the outgoing MLC as “the Honourable Bernard Vincent Finnigan, MLC”, a formality that only emphasised the spectacular fall from grace of the former powerbroker and minister, who was this month found guilty of obtaining child pornography and will be sentenced next week.

In his place, a man many believe could one day lead the state was elected unopposed, the goodwill even extended by Opposition Leader Steven Marshall, who noted it was “a privilege and honour for anyone to become a member of this parliament”.

But the occasion was as much an exorcism as an induction, with Weatherill all but conceding he had insisted on a candidate of undoubted heft almost by way of apology for Finnigan.

“The circumstances that led to the filling of this vacancy are distressing,” he told parliament.

“The best way we can respond is by filling the vacancy with someone who can make a positive contribution to this chamber.”

But even so, it’s widely accepted Malinauskas’s contribution to the chamber will be short-lived, Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis fuelling assumptions he’ll be catapulted into a safe lower house seat at the earliest opportunity by telling the Legislative Council: “He’ll be an adornment to this house – enjoy him while you have him!”

Malinauskas himself was diplomatically refusing to buy into speculation about his rapid rise, telling InDaily: “My sole focus is to work as hard as I can and learn as much as I can.”

“The operations of the party and the Government are unique – there’s a lot for me to learn,” he said.

“Of course, I’ll serve in any capacity the Premier and party ask me to, but I’m not being presumptuous about anything.”

Of a future move to the lower house, likely via Mick Atkinson’s Croydon stronghold, he said: “I’m not thinking that far ahead.”

“There are two years to serve in this term … it’s crazy to start thinking about a second term before the first,” he said.

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