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Regional advocate to run against Lib exile

Politics

A prominent medicinal cannabis advocate and former staffer to veteran crossbencher Geoff Brock will stand as an independent in the Yorke Peninsula seat of Narungga – whose incumbent Fraser Ellis is facing criminal charges after an ICAC inquiry into alleged misuse of parliamentary entitlements.

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The candidacy of regional advocate Dianah Walter could cause a headache for the Liberals, with Ellis last month forced to suspend his party membership after he was charged with 23 counts of deception relating to an ICAC inquiry into the Country Members Allowance.

He will contest the charges and hopes to recontest his seat as the endorsed Liberal candidate, but Steven Marshall initially indicated last month that the party would preselect an alternative candidate if Ellis’s legal tussle dragged on.

Narungga is held with a nominal 17.9 per cent margin, but a split conservative vote and the presence of a prominent independent could make it a more intriguing prospect.

The seat includes Port Wakefield, Ardrossan, Kadina, Maitland and Wallaroo.

“Narungga deserves the best representation possible in the South Australian parliament, and I don’t believe the people have had that for a long time,” Walter said today in a statement.

“It is time to set aside political ideologies and instead work towards getting things done for those who call Narungga home.”

She promoted a “community-based action plan” comprised of aspirations “rather than a set of predetermined policies”, saying: “This is policy-making and politics done very differently.”

Walter has been an outspoken voice promoting medical marijuana and is the founder of consultancy Regions Matter, billed as “a micro-enterprise established to help governments, the private sector and not-for-profit organisations engage with [regional] stakeholders and communities”.

“Together we can influence policy and effect change for Our Place, Narungga,” she said.

She has previously led an ill-fated senate ticket – Partnership with Purpose, with then-Port Pirie deputy mayor and serial Labor candidate for Frome John Rohde – in 2013, revealing at the time she had sought the counsel of then-federal politics star Nick Xenophon.

This time round, she is spruiking the endorsement of Xenophon’s unendorsed and shortlived senate replacement, Tim Storer, who said: “Dianah… will be the [seat’s] best political representative at the state level, one that the people of Narungga deserve.”

“She is someone that will listen to their concerns and needs, and then advocate and vote accordingly in the state’s parliament,” he said.

“This is a totally different approach to that of just voting… as told to do so by the established political parties’ leaders.”

Ellis told InDaily he welcomed Walter’s candidacy, saying: “Elections don’t work without a choice – the voters of Narungga will have one now.”

“I’m confident they’ll make the right choice come voting day,” he said.

“I’ll be confident in the body of work I’ll present from my time in parliament as a pitch to voters to  try to secure re-election.”

While he will need to resolve his legal proceedings before returning to the party fold, he said: “I fully intend to run as a Liberal.”

Brock wished his former staffer well, saying she had “a very great interest in politics [and] I’m very, very happy to support her in her endeavours”.

Brock is himself attempting to unseat a Liberal incumbent, making the switch from Frome to take on Mining and Energy Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan in neighbouring Stuart after an electoral boundaries redraw shifted his Port Pirie base into the Port Augusta-centred seat.

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