Party sources have confirmed the Liberals have opted not to pour resources into contesting the seats, both of which are considered safe Labor electorates.
Weatherill was returned last March with a 15.9 per cent margin, while Rau held Enfield by 7.9 in an election in which Nick Xenophon’s ill-fated SA Best muddied the two-party results.
The by-elections will be held concurrently on February 9, after Labor’s former leadership duo opted to retire from parliament late last year.
Liberal insiders have told InDaily that the state executive has resolved not to run in either seat, although state director Sascha Meldrum did not confirm the decision today, saying nominations remain open until January 24.
However, the party did not apply for public funding before the electoral commission’s deadline last week and has not placed its usual public advertisements seeking nominations.
Labor is running trade union boss Joe Szakacs in Cheltenham and commercial lawyer Andrea Michaels in Enfield, where high-profile former Port Adelaide Enfield mayor – and serial state candidate – Gary Johanson is also running.
ALP state secretary Reggie Martin said the Liberals’ decision “doesn’t come as a surprise [as] it’s the same tactic they employed in the 2012 by-elections”.
In 2012, the Liberals did not field candidates after the retirement of the previous Labor leadership team, Mike Rann and Kevin Foley, although Christopher Pyne staffer Sue Lawrie put up her hand in Port Adelaide as an independent Liberal.
Johanson, a one-time Liberal Party member who ran under the SA Best banner last year, told InDaily he was campaigning on the assumption the Liberals were not running.
“They would have had to put someone up by now [so] it would appear they’re not going to run a candidate,” he said.
“I find it hard to grasp, but they’re obviously the experts.”
He said because neither contest would affect the Government’s majority, “they’re in a very comfortable position”.
“The by-elections won’t affect the outcome of who governs the state so do they run a candidate and perhaps not win?” he said, arguing such an outcome “might seem to be a reflection on the Marshall Government and its progress to date, and that could enhance problems the federal Libs are having”.
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