On Monday, Marshall told reporters: “I think the reality is Nick Xenophon has done a deal with Labor… clearly he’s done a deal.”
Yesterday, he appeared to water down his rhetoric, saying it was his “strong belief that a deal has been done”.
“I strongly believe that a vote for Nick Xenophon will result in 20 years of Labor… all the evidence supports this,” he said.
In a statement this morning, Xenophon said he had sought “independent legal advice” about the comments, which he called “totally false and defamatory”.
“Accordingly, this morning I have issued a Concerns Notice to Mr Marshall, pursuant to the Defamation Act,” Xenophon said.
“Steven Marshall has the opportunity to put the record straight and to apologise and I look forward to his response.”
But the Opposition Leader declined to take that opportunity today, telling media he was yet to receive the correspondence, and that “I stand by what I said previously, I believe a deal has been done”.
“We’ll wait to receive that [correspondence] and we’ll respond accordingly [but] no, there’ll be no apology from Steven Marshall,” he said.
He pointed out that Xenophon had today confirmed Kate Amoroso as his candidate in the south-eastern seat of Mount Gambier – as forecast by InDaily last week.
The seat is nominally Liberal, although incumbent Troy Bell left the party last year after being charged with a raft of offences relating to the misappropriation of more than $2 million of taxpayers’ money in a previous role.
Bell is contesting the charges and is standing as an independent.
Marshall also argued that with Xenophon confirming a candidate in Unley this week, he was now running candidates in “20” Liberal seats, concluding that “a reasonable person would look at what’s occurring at the moment” and recognise that “if he holds the balance of power you’re going to have 20 years of Labor Government in SA”.
Xenophon later unveiled a further two candidates in Labor-held seats, Newland and Wright.
That means of the 33 candidates Xenophon has announced thus far, 16 are in Labor-held seats and only 14 in Liberal-held ones. However, a further three are in nominal Liberal seats held by independents: Bell, Duncan McFetridge in Morphett and the retiring Martin Hamilton-Smith.
The Liberals further argue that Labor targets such as Colton and Mawson are nominal Liberal seats under the 2016 boundaries redistribution.
If Xenophon follows through with his legal proceedings, it will not be the first case of its kind in SA: then-Opposition Leader Mike Rann once sued former Premier John Olsen – who counter-sued – in the infamous “liar-liar” case, which did not go to judgment. More recently, Rann and now-Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis sued then-Liberal leader Martin Hamilton-Smith over the “dodgy documents” affair.
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