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Libs' call to arms as party rings changes

Politics

The state Liberal Party is on a war footing after today opening nominations for candidates in 34 seats across the state.

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Preselection contests have been thrown open in every Liberal-held seat, as well as 11 target seats the party will need to wrest off Labor if it is to seize power in March 2018.

Nominations have also opened in the state’s two independent-held seats, with the party hopeful of knocking off Geoff Brock in Frome and confident it can win back the notionally-safe seat of Waite from party defector Martin Hamilton-Smith.

The former Liberal leader appears increasingly likely to face off against young turk Sam Duluk, who entered parliament last year replacing Iain Evans in the Davenport by-election.

Party insiders believe Duluk’s switch from Davenport to Waite, whose borders encroached strongly on his current seat in last week’s boundary commission redistribution, is a virtual fait accompli.

That could see current state president Steve Murray make a tilt for Davenport, with insiders telling InDaily such a move is being strongly touted.

Duluk said today he was “considering the new boundaries”, but noted his Blackwood electorate office was now within Hamilton-Smith’s borders.

“I’ll be giving [the move] strong consideration in the Christmas period,” he told InDaily.

“For me the consideration is how to best continue to represent my voters… many of the voters I represent at the moment happen to be in the new seat of Waite.”

Speculation has been rife in Liberal ranks that Hamilton-Smith could countenance his own shift, with the prospect of a tilt in Elder or against his old foe Isobel Redmond in Heysen being floated.

But Hamilton-Smith told InDaily this week he would be running as an independent Liberal in Waite.

“I’m the incumbent in Waite, and I’ll be running as the incumbent,” he said.

He welcomed the redistribution, which has effectively seen three quarters of Duluk’s seat redesignated into Waite, saying it provided “an opportunity to reorganise my office and refocus”.

“I’m looking forward to embracing the new parts of the seat,” he said.

“I grew up in Waite, I went to school in Waite, I’ve operated several successful businesses in Waite [and] I’m running as the incumbent.”

But party sources believe the boundary shift is so dramatic Duluk would have better claim to incumbency, and that such a high-profile contest would help the right-winger stamp his credentials.

InDaily understands Duluk’s factional colleague Dan Cregan has formally notified the local party of his intent to stand for Kavel, after incumbent Mark Goldsworthy this week stood aside, as forecast last month.

Murray has not yet responded to questions about his own candidacy, but in an earlier statement said that advertisements would appear later this week to encourage nominations from “highly capable Liberal candidates to represent their local community”.

Opposition Leader Steven Marshall said in a statement: “After more than 14 years of Labor mismanagement and broken promises, South Australia needed a fresh approach and new direction.”

“At this critical time for our state, we are calling for passionate hard-working candidates committed to delivering our vision,” he said.

“We want to build on the strong parliamentary team that we already have… a Liberal Government will provide responsible leadership and deliver a clear pathway to recovery and success.”

As InDaily reported last week, Paralympian Matt Cowdrey is expected to nominate in Colton, while Kendall Jackson is considered likely to run again against Geoff Brock in Frome.

Unley mayor Lachlan Clyne has long been expected to throw his hat in the ring for Badcoe, renamed from Ashford in the redistribution. He recently moved into the existing seat, although the suburb he bought into has now been largely shifted into neighbouring Morphett.

Clyne did not respond to queries today. Interestingly, Badcoe has been fortified for Labor by the new boundaries, whereas neighbouring Elder is now nominally a Liberal seat with a 4 per cent-plus margin.

That might make the latter a more palatable option for the Unley mayor, although party insiders are confident former candidate Carolyn Habib will stand again, after a Labor leaflet campaign roundly criticised as “racist” has continued to dog the ALP post-election.

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