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Exiled Lib still a paid-up party member

Politics

Liberal MP-in-exile Sam Duluk has paid to renew his party membership – with the Liberal Party administration banking his money, InDaily understands.

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The MP for Waite suspended his own party membership and moved to the state parliamentary crossbench last year, when a police report was laid over an alleged assault against SA Best MLC Connie Bonaros at a 2019 Parliament House Christmas function.

He has since been charged with basic assault, and will face court later this year.

Premier Steven Marshall also declared him banished from the Liberal party-room in February last year, but noted at the time the MP’s party membership was “a matter for the Liberal Party State Executive”.

InDaily has been told Duluk has however recently paid the annual fee to maintain his status as a party member, with the Liberal Party accepting the payment.

Neither the MP nor the party confirmed or denied the suggestion when asked by InDaily, with Duluk referring the inquiry to Liberal state director Sascha Meldrum, saying: “I don’t talk about internal party matters.”

However, Meldrum responded that “a person’s membership status is confidential”, suggesting InDaily referred to question to Duluk.

Asked a second time, the MP said: “My current membership status is suspended [and] I look forward to my court matter and continuing as the Member for Waite.”

Duluk and fellow exiled Liberals Fraser Ellis and Troy Bell have gained newfound influence on the crossbench, alongside former Labor MP Frances Bedford and Frome incumbent Geoff Brock, with the five now holding the balance of power in the 47-seat parliament.

InDaily revealed yesterday Duluk intended to rush through legislation that would require both houses of parliament to sign off on any plans to demolish heritage-listed structures – a Bill that could effectively save the Urrbrae gatehouse from demolition.

He retains strong support from a majority of the Waite Liberal sub-branch, which petitioned the party’s state executive to delay preselecting a candidate in the seat until his court matter was resolved.

However, influential moderates are mobilising to unseat him, with Marshall just last month declaring: “Sam Duluk is not a member of the Liberal Party and therefore he can’t be our candidate for the next state election.”

However, it appears likely Duluk will retain an active membership with a nominal ‘suspended’ status, to counter suggestions he is ineligible to stand for preselection should his legal situation allow for it.

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