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Libs retreat from bid to expel rogue MP

Politics

The SA Liberal Party’s governing executive has thumbed its nose at a party-room demand to expel rogue Legislative Council president John Dawkins from the party, instead suspending his membership for little more than a year.

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Dawkins put noses out of joint when he ran for the president’s chair vacated by Terry Stephens – who stood down amid the parliamentary expenses scandal – beating his own party’s endorsed nominee for the role, Jing Lee, in a dramatic recount in September.

At the time, Treasurer and veteran Legislative Councillor Rob Lucas described “white hot anger” in the party-room against Dawkins, with his colleagues unanimously voting to ask the party’s governing state executive to tear up his membership.

However, that incandescent rage appears to have cooled in the meantime, with Liberal state director Sascha Meldrum reporting last night that “the Liberal Party State Executive has moved to suspend John Dawkins’ membership of the party for the term of his Presidency” – which ends when he retires from parliament altogether in March 2022.

Dawkins had already declared he did not intend to attend party-room meetings in the meantime in any case.

Despite his earlier rhetoric that “there was a very, very angry and strong view from all of his parliamentary colleagues [that Dawkins] be expelled from the party”, Lucas confirmed to InDaily that it was his own motion to instead suspend his membership temporarily.

“I moved the motion last night at state executive and it was unanimously supported – we think that’s a reasonable outcome,” said Lucas, who attended the state executive meeting as a representative of Premier Steven Marshall.

“The Premier is supportive of the position that I put… we’re pleased with the result.

“It’s a penalty, and a significant one, and John would acknowledge that… he didn’t believe either [expulsion or suspension] was appropriate, but that’s fine.”

But Upper House crossbencher Frank Pangallo said the result “looks like a slap in the face for the parliamentary party [which] wanted to boot him out”.

“I’m glad they didn’t,” he said.

“Why should he be punished and kicked out of the Liberal Party? When you consider John’s distinguished service to the Liberal Party and the enormous contribution he’s made to them, it would be pretty harsh.”

Pangallo argued Dawkins had “handled the [president’s] job admirably so far”.

The Government would also be wary of losing the prospect of a casting vote in the event of a tied Upper House division.

Dawkins said he would “continue to work with community groups in the northern and north-eastern suburbs and many country areas, as I have done for my 23 years in the Legislative Council – and support Liberal members and candidates in those areas”.

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