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Duluk "can't be our candidate": Marshall cuts Waite MP loose

Politics

Premier Steven Marshall has signalled the end of former Liberal MP Sam Duluk’s political career with the party, suggesting the former rising star won’t be endorsed as a candidate for next year’s state election.

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Duluk suspended his own party membership amid a scandal last year that saw him charged with basic assault over an alleged incident at a parliamentary corridor Christmas drinks event in 2019.

InDaily has previously reported that the Liberal sub-branch in his seat of Waite has asked the party to delay preselecting a candidate until the incumbent’s case is resolved, with a trial date set for June.

However, Marshall today effectively rejected that approach, when addressing his Government’s launch into parliamentary minority rule, after backbencher Fraser Ellis today also halted his membership after being charged with falsely claiming more than $18,000 in entitlements.

Marshall signalled Ellis, whose preselection in his Yorke Peninsula seat of Narungga was already confirmed last year, “is not a member of the Liberal Party, and you need to be a member of the Liberal Party to be a candidate for Narungga”.

“That’s a matter for the state executive, but I just make the point you can’t be a candidate if you’re not a member of the Liberal Party and Fraser Ellis is not a member of the Liberal Party,” he said.

This prompted further questions about whether the same principle applied for Duluk in Waite, to which Marshall responded: “It’s an almost identical situation.”

“There hasn’t been a preselection in Waite, but Sam Duluk is not a member of the Liberal Party and therefore he can’t be our candidate for the next state election.”

Duluk told InDaily: “My matter is before the court [and] internal matters for preselection are matters for the Liberal Party.”

“I’ll be seeking to run at the next election,” he said.

“There are many issues I want to pursue for this term of government, including saving the Waite gatehouse, tougher penalties for bushfire arsonists and improving local road infrastructure.”

Asked whether he would run as an independent if not endorsed by the Liberal Party, he simply said: “I intend to run at the next election and continue to serve as the Member for Waite.”

The Premier’s comments will open internal debate about whether self-suspension of party membership constitutes ceasing to be a member of the party.

It will also likely exacerbate factional tensions, with both Duluk and Ellis hailing from the party’s Right faction, which has been marginalised in Marshall’s moderate-dominated cabinet.

Marshall’s closest political adviser, outgoing press secretary Ashton Hurn, last week won preselection for the Barossa seat of Schubert, to replace outgoing Stephan Knoll, another Right-winger damaged by the entitlements scandal.

Preselections in the vacant seats of Frome and Flinders will be decided on the weekend, with Right-aligned former Local Government Association president Sam Telfer expected to be confirmed in the latter.

Frome is a hotly-contested field, with moderate Penny Pratt facing centre-Right-backed Michael van Dissel, Right-supported Craig Honan, local teacher Karen Slattery and former candidate Kendall Jackson.

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