Party powerbrokers have distanced themselves from the evident public slapdown of the PM by a prospective candidate, who has also proposed wholesale reform of the ABC, including selling off Classic FM and Triple J and allowing parliament to vet all presenters and senior reporters.
Stephen Blacketer, an IT services professional and president of the party’s Heysen State Electoral Conference, on Friday confirmed his nomination for the seat in an email to local members.
Turnbull has now had three attempts at national leadership… he has failed on all three occasions.
“Liberals need to fight the cultural fight, not just be good managers of the left’s social experiments,” he wrote.
“A good starting point is to reverse the left’s march through the institutions.”
Blacketer told branch members he was seeking preselection because “I want my children to have the opportunity to work and live in South Australia”.
“The economic and social course that SA is following is destroying our economy, driving businesses and opportunity away, and as a consequence is driving our children and grandchildren away from the state,” he wrote.
“The sorry state of our unreliable and expensive electricity supply is emblematic of the problems we face.”
Blacketer is a member of self-proclaimed “free market think-tank” the Institute of Public Affairs who hails from the conservative wing of the Liberal Party. His email claimed his nomination was endorsed by Stan and Barb Evans, who remain an influential power couple in conservative politics in the area.
Stan Evans once held the seats of Fisher and Davenport, the latter won when he ran as an independent Liberal at the expense of endorsed moderate leader Dean Brown. Their son Iain later retained the seat for two decades, becoming Liberal leader in 2006.
Blacketer would not comment to InDaily today, saying party rules dictate that “people aren’t allowed to talk about preselection matters until the candidate has been determined”.
However, he has been an enthusiastic contributor to social media and the IPA website, voicing controversial opinions including backing Channel 9 personality Sonia Kruger after she called for a halt to Muslim immigration to Australia.
Well done @SoniaKruger for having the courage to challenge the censorious left on this vital subject. https://t.co/zUTEjIodAs
— Stephen Blacketer (@sblacketer) July 18, 2016
He also appears to have penned a lengthy comment on a News Corp Australia article by Daily Telegraph columnist Miranda Devine in July last year – in the aftermath of the federal election – in which he called for Turnbull to step down or be removed from the Liberal leadership.
“Turnbull has now had three attempts at national leadership: Leader of the Republican Movement; Leader of the Opposition and PM,” read the comment, which was signed by ‘Steve Blacketer’.
“He has failed on all three occasions. He has to go!”
Blacketer did not answer direct questions about the comments this morning, telling InDaily: “I don’t have anything to say to you, ok?”
But the rhetoric of the post is consistent with social media posts lamenting Devine’s attacks on what she labels “DelCons” – ‘delusional conservatives’. Devine has heaped scorn on DelCons for maintaining “the delusion that Tony Abbott was a conservative warrior cut down in his prime by leftie treachery, and that he will return to reclaim his throne once Malcolm Turnbull fails”.
“The Delcon movement is tiny but viciously punitive to those it regards as heretics,” she has written.
Blacketer posted a comment on an article by Devine days after the election – which saw Turnbull narrowly scrape home – in which she urged the PM to “come out from under his doona, humbly admit fault, reach out to the conservatives who deserted the Liberals and heal the party”.
Blacketer responded: “Hi Miranda, Your (sic) slowly inching your own way towards a long overdue apology to the ‘Delcons’ you insulted so badly…
“It turns out that us Delcons do matter. We are the base and supporters of the Liberal Party. The people who volunteer, put up election signs, hand out how to vote cards in the rain, raise funds at cake stalls and sausage sizzles, rally the troops etc. We’re the people that were ignored and insulted by Turnbull and completely taken for granted. Well, perhaps the Turnbulls and Devines of this world are listening now.”
He said the election result showed that “we do count”.
“We’re not racists, bigots, homophobes, climate deniers or Islamaphobes,” he wrote.
“We value responsible government and we value our British based Australian culture and were (sic) very proud of that fact. Ignore us at your peril.”
State Liberal leader Steven Marshall told InDaily in a statement that while “pre-selection is a matter for the Liberal Party and specifically local branches… I certainly do not endorse the comments you have referred to”.
Barb Evans today told InDaily she and Stan have signed nomination forms for several candidates “because we believe it’s the right of every financial member who wants to nominate” to do so.
She was not aware of his comments about Turnbull. Asked whether she thought they were appropriate for a prospective candidate, she said: “No, I don’t.”
With the absence of one-time Opposition Leader Redmond, Heysen is considered a prime target for the fledgling Nick Xenophon Team, whose candidate Rebekha Sharkie snared the geographically-aligned federal seat of Mayo from the Liberals last year.
It’s understood other names in the mix for preselection in Heysen include former Chaffey candidate Anna Baric, Alexandrina deputy mayor Ben Brazzalotto and Michael Grivell, who was the seat’s returning officer in 2014. Lawyer Josh Teague – the son of former moderate-aligned Senator Baden Teague and currently representing the Liberal Party in the Supreme Court battle over electoral boundaries – has also been linked to the electorate.
Former senator Sean Edwards has also been considering a tilt at Heysen, but it’s believed he’s unlikely to nominate. He did not respond to inquiries today.
Insiders believe Baric and Blacketer are considered the frontrunners for the preselection.
Blacketer’s reticence today is at odds with his propensity to espouse his proudly hard-right views.
He has published a radical plan to reform the ABC – one of his bugbears, according to his Twitter account – which includes selling off or closing down SBS, selling Triple J and forcing the broadcaster to submit a list of all “on-air presenters, producers, senior journalists, management staff and board” to federal parliament for approval.
“The ABC uses its vast communications network and influence to steer political, cultural and economic debate to the left of politics,” he wrote, inflamed at being ‘dumped’ on air after calling in to ABC Adelaide’s Breakfast show to complain about former Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
“It is a public institution captured by supporters [of] the far left of Australian politics, who have it doing their bidding,” he continued.
“Reform of the ABC is well overdue and effective reform is eminently possible [and] vital for the wellbeing of Australia.”
He advocates closing Classic FM and “letting each state part-fund their symphony orchestra”, arguing: “There are plenty of classical music stations available on the internet.”
Of the plan to sell off the broadcaster’s youth radio station, he says: “I can’t think of a reason to have a government-funded contemporary music station. There are plenty of them in the market.”
He also argues all commercial enterprises, including books and merchandise sales, “should be either sold off or shut down”.
“Mostly these are market-distorting government-funded competitors to private businesses,” he writes.
His plan for the ABC also contains another reference to Turnbull, whom he says “is wrong”.
“Reform of the ABC can be achieved without making it the personal news outlet of the Prime Minister,” he wrote.
In his email to SEC members, Blacketer laid out his ideology as a prospective state MP, saying “we need to respect individual liberties and property rights, get government out of people’s lives and advocate for smaller government [and] aim to reduce taxation and eliminate wasteful spending”.
He also wants to “encourage entrepreneurial spirit and personal responsibility [and] fight the division of identity and minority politics”.
“I ask for your vote on the strength of my ideas, my character and my experience,” he said.
He has stepped aside as SEC president pending the ballot, expected late next month, with nominations to close this week.
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