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Marshall: Nothing's off the table - except nuclear

Politics

Liberal leader Steven Marshall says he has an open mind on policy solutions, today declaring South Australia “can’t afford to take one single solitary thing off the table” – only minutes after launching a strident defence of his unilateral move to take nuclear waste storage off the table.

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In an interview on ABC Adelaide, Marshall was asked about the Liberals’ policy agenda, with little more than a year before he leads the party to another state election.

He pointed to the Liberals’ “2036” manifesto released last year, “which talks about our values, what we stand for as a party and the nine areas we think that good State Government is based upon”.

“We’ve already put out policies that will return the Emergency Services Levy remission that Labor took away,” Marshall continued.

“We’ve said that we will deregulate shop trading hours because people should be able to shop and open their shops when they want to… we’ve said that we’ll cap council rates because we’re very concerned that people are struggling to meet household bills at the moment…

“But of course there’s a lot more policies which we’ll release in the lead up to the next election.”

The Liberals were put in the spotlight last week when former senator Sean Edwards mused about a push by business supporters to see him installed into state parliament, and possibly to replace Marshall as leader. Edwards refused to rule out either scenario, repeating earlier disenchantment over his party’s decision to withdraw support for a broad discussion over a proposed nuclear waste dump.

Marshall said today he had not spoken to Edwards in the past week, but he had “made a great contribution for the people of South Australia in the federal parliament”.

“I think that he’s been a long-term advocate for the business community and the people of regional SA over an extended period of time, and he’s been a good friend of mine for the last 10 or 15 years…

“In recent years of course he’s been a strong advocate for nuclear energy here… and look he’s a guy who’s got a lot to offer the people of South Australia.”

He said he saw Edwards “all the time” but “I haven’t run into him in the last week”.

“But there’s no rift between Sean Edwards and I… this is the great thing about the Liberal Party, you can have differences of opinion but have the overarching interests of the people of South Australia at your heart,” he said.

Marshall said of the party room’s decision to withdraw support for further nuclear debate: “A lot of people are out there saying it’s a political decision by Steven Marshall and the Liberal Party; nothing could be further from the truth.”

“We welcomed the royal commission in the first place, in fact we were the only party that was talking about the nuclear opportunity for South Australia before the last election,” he said.

“But there was nothing in the analysis that we did post the royal commission report being tabled down that gave us any form of comfort that there wasn’t huge economic risk associated with this proposal.”

Marshall said the Liberals were also “very prepared to look at” medical marijuana, emphasising: “I don’t think we can afford to take one single solitary thing off the table and we know that this has worked in other jurisdictions.”

But Marshall was less forthcoming when asked about Liberal policies on bringing down power prices.

“It’s great that you want to sort of say ‘what is the Liberal Party going to do’ but at the moment you’ve got the Labor Party running around saying the reasons for the problems in South Australia is because the Liberal Party sold ETSA, [and] that’s just simply not true,” he said.

“And what we do need to do is have a good-quality understanding of why our prices are so high in SA and why our reliability is so low… I don’t think anybody is really arguing that we need to make a transition to renewables but when we do that it must be done in an orderly way which doesn’t send our prices sky-high – and that’s exactly what’s happened.

“A Liberal Government will bring lower prices and more reliable electricity back to South Australia because we won’t take things off the table.”

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