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Lib split with a twist: elder statesman backs rebel MP

Politics

A former factional powerbroker has thrown his support behind ousted Liberal John Dawkins, calling his looming expulsion from the party “unreasonable” and an “over-reaction”.

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Dawkins is set to become the first Liberal MP since Peter Lewis in 2002 to be booted from the party after he defied the party-room to run successfully against endorsed nominee Jing Lee for the Legislative Council presidency.

A meeting of the joint party-room yesterday resolved unanimously to expel him from the parliamentary party, with a recommendation to go to state executive to tear up his party membership altogether.

But former Senator and party state director Nick Minchin, who led the Liberal Right faction during the Howard Government era, has defended Dawkins as “a man of enormous integrity and… a loyal and dedicated servant of the Liberal Party for decades”.

In a contribution to InDaily’s Your views section, Minchin writes that Dawkins “was on my staff when I was a Liberal Senator for SA”.

“His decision to stand for the position of President of the Legislative Council, a position for which he is eminently qualified, should not result in his membership of the SA Division of the Liberal Party being cancelled,” he said.

“I would be extremely disappointed if the Party Organisation were to take such drastic and unreasonable action against John, who has served the Party with great distinction.”

Contacted by InDaily, Minchin declined to comment further.

It came as federal Health minister Greg Hunt today lavished a Lifetime Achievement Award on Dawkins for his work in suicide prevention.

Dawkins was honoured for his ongoing work in the field, particularly as the Premier’s Advocate for Suicide Prevention in SA – ironically a role he was given in 2018 effectively as a consolation for missing out of the Upper House presidency.

Treasurer Rob Lucas said Dawkins had done “very good work” in the field but noted Hunt’s award was “nothing to do with the issue” of his membership of the Liberal Party.

On Minchin’s intervention, he said: “I’ve got great respect for Nick, but he’s no longer a member of the state executive.”

“It’s an interesting observation but the decision will be taken be the state executive,” he said.

Premier Steven Marshall said he had written to Dawkins to tell him it was no longer appropriate for him to continue in the Suicide Prevention advocacy role.

“Obviously it wouldn’t be appropriate to have the president of the Legislative Council in a government role,” he told reporters.

“We’ll take a few days to find someone to replace him in that role.”

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