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Beaten leadership aspirant intends to remain a Liberal 'at this stage'

Politics

Failed Liberal leadership candidate Nick McBride says he was “strongly” hoping to be included on David Speirs’ frontbench after facing off in a ballot last week, but insists he intends to remain in the party “at this stage”.

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The maverick MacKillop MP, who last year considered quitting the Liberals to contest his south-east seat as an independent, managed only his own vote in the leadership ballot, which Speirs won with 18 votes, while fellow challenger Josh Teague garnered five.

But while last week’s reshuffle saw veteran conservative Adrian Pederick return to the frontbench with responsibility for regional roads, and newcomers Sam Telfer and Penny Pratt handed shadow ministerial oversight of regional planning and health respectively, McBride did not make the cut.

Instead, he was made shadow parliamentary secretary for regional engagement – a responsibility he says is yet to be explained to him.

Asked whether he had wanted to be in the shadow cabinet, he said: “A strong ‘yes’.”

“It is what it is, and I’m not to worry about it,” McBride told InDaily.

“I’m yet to be told what that position means… I’m working through this now, as respectfully as I can manage.”

He said he understood he would chair a regional engagement committee, saying: “It will be interesting to see how this committee works.”

McBride is conscious of the fact he failed to convince a single member of the Liberal party-room to back his leadership tilt, noting a heckle from a punter when he made a contentious decision while umpiring a local football game yesterday: “No wonder you only got one vote!”

“It didn’t surprise me at all,” he said of the ballot result.

“They’d all obviously met, talked, got themselves organised and voted the way they have.”

Asked if he intended to remain in the party for the remainder of the four-year term, he said: “At this stage, yes.”

“All going well, yes – my real intention is to get through the next election as a Liberal in the Opposition, that’s my intent,” he said.

“I’m hoping this new Opposition, and the collaboration of ideas and opinions, does it better than what we were doing in government… it would be disappointing if that wasn’t the case.”

He said the party had opted for “generational change” in backing Speirs, “and if it’s for the better, I’ll give it all the accolades it deserves”.

“I’m very, very neutral… because I’ve got to be respectful, and see how this new Opposition looks and performs – and I certainly don’t want it to fail because of anything I do or say,” he said.

Speirs’ fledgling leadership was tested almost as soon as he was installed, when former deputy premier Vickie Chapman opted to announce her resignation from parliament on the same day.

“I think the party and Vickie Chapman are going to be both happy to part their ways,” McBride said of the episode.

But Chapman, and ex-Premier Steven Marshall, are both expected to attend “parts” of today’s Liberal party-room ‘love-in’ at Murray Bridge, according to Speirs.

The gathering is billed by the new leader as a “24-hour getaway… enabling us to sit down and have a conversation about the direction we’re headed into the future”.

Speirs told reporters today that despite a “record infrastructure spend… for whatever reason the election result did reflect a lack of support, or a lack of enthusiasm, for our government, not only in metropolitan Adelaide but in regional SA as well”.

“We need to reflect deeply as to why the regions didn’t vote for us in their usual numbers,” he said.

Speirs highlighted the need for “unity”, insisting the public “reception towards the shadow cabinet has been really, really good”.

“There’s a level of relevance in our shadow cabinet and across our team that excites people,” he said.

“We’re going to look at every policy we had in the past; we’re going to delve deeply into how to connect in a relevant and authentic way with South Australians from all walks of life.”

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