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Overlooked Wortley 'critical of Labor leader's strategy'

Politics

Former Upper House president Russell Wortley put his hand up for a senior role on fledgling Labor leader Peter Malinauskas’s frontbench and vocally criticised his allocation of shadow ministries, InDaily understands.

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Wortley, who served as Minister for Industrial Relations and State/Local Government Relations under Mike Rann and Jay Weatherill before the latter ended his tenure in 2013, last week confirmed he would seek another eight-year term in the Legislative Council when his current term expires in 2022.

He was overlooked for a frontbench role when Malinauskas unveiled his new-look shadow ministry in April – but InDaily understands it wasn’t for lack of trying.

It’s believed Wortley, who would not comment today, was highly critical of the Labor leadership for a perceived lack of frontbench representation in the Upper House – and voiced his frustration in meetings with several of his fellow MPs.

Several sources have confirmed Wortley “piped up” in a factional meeting, pointing out that with the key portfolios of Treasury and Health being handled by Liberal MLCs Rob Lucas and Stephen Wade, respectively, the Upper House would be a key battleground in parliament.

It’s understood he registered his firm “disappointment” that Labor “wasn’t taking the Upper House seriously”.

InDaily understands Wortley made it clear that he was available to serve if requested – an offer Malinauskas did not take up.

Labor’s Legislative Council leader, left-wing powerbroker Kyam Maher, was a walk-up start for the frontbench.

Malinauskas also unveiled a surprise shadow ministry for first-term right-winger Clare Scriven – who was elevated to the Opposition frontbench in April even before her election to parliament was assured, with Upper House ballots still being counted.

Ironically, it’s believed the vacancy offered to Scriven opened up after Wortley’s wife Dana, Labor’s MP for Torrens, declined to accept a frontbench role in the lower house, citing a desire to focus on her seat.

She said at the time: “We’ve just had a very intense election campaign, and mine’s a marginal seat… at this stage, I want to focus on my electorate.”

Sources have told InDaily Wortley argued in a party meeting that Scriven’s elevation had only been made possible because of his complaints.

While Wortley was overlooked as Malinauskas sought fresh frontbench talent, the Labor leader did find room for another former minister in Tony Piccolo, who had previously stood aside to facilitate his own elevation to cabinet in 2016.

InDaily reported last week that Wortley’s determination to run again in 2022 could put the brakes on a mooted shift by ALP state secretary Reggie Martin to enter the Upper House at the next election.

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