Thu. May 19th, 2022

The South Australian government has received a major blow less than six months after the March election, when Adelaide Hills MP Dan Cregan left the Liberal Party and announced his intention to run for office.

The first term MP had previously signaled a desire to leave politics, but this afternoon he revealed that he would instead compete for his seat in Kavel — which includes the towns of Mount Barker, Hahndorf, Oakbank and Woodside — from across the bench.

In a statement, he said his goal was to keep the balance of power after the election and negotiate significant investment in his constituents.

He calls for a new hospital, ambulance station and more investment in education and public transport to the hills.

Although he expressed hope of “maintaining a positive relationship” with both sides of politics, he also took a hole in his former colleagues and Prime Minister Steven Marshall.

The remark is a clear reference to the 2014 election, when Labor famously secured the crucial support of independent Geoff Brock at a meeting on ham and pineapple pizza.

Cregan’s defection has further swelled in the SA Parliament’s cross-bench with former Liberals, including Fraser Ellis and Sam Duluk.

Sir. Duluk announced he would contest the March state election as an independent week after he was acquitted of assaulting SA Best MLC Connie Bonaros at a Christmas party, though the magistrate found out he had acted as a “drunk pest”.

Sir. Cregan’s decision has further loosened the Liberal Party’s grip on power, as the party is now stuck in a minority government and only occupies 22 seats in a 47-seat lower house.

In a statement, Marshall said Mr Cregan’s decision was a “matter for him”.

“I look forward to our party choosing a liberal candidate in advance and working with them to deliver what matters to the people of Kavel,” Marshall said.

Federal Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham was more angry, accusing Mr Cregan of repeatedly “changing his mind”.

“Dan seems to have changed his mind a few times in recent months, from not contesting the next election and would do other things with his life to changing his attitude again,” Senator Birmingham told ABC Radio Adelaide.

“Definitely at the next state election, we want to make sure we have a great, high-quality local candidate.”

Cregan said among his complaints was the lack of a “state plan for the massive population growth” in the Adelaide Hills.

“A senior state adviser told me you are a secure seat, you are not getting the investment you are asking for right now,” he said.

“It has also sometimes been difficult to really say my opinion due to the limitations of the Liberal Party.”

The jump comes in the middle of fractional ‘battles’

The SA Liberal Party has been gripped by tensions between factional moderates and conservatives in recent months.

“The Conservatives and the moderates are fighting with each other for control of the party,” former MP and co-jumper Martin Hamilton-Smith told ABC Radio Adelaide in September.

“According to many, the party was hijacked by the moderates back in 2013, when Steven Marshall and Vickie Chapman took over as leader and deputy.

“Many in the party see the moderates … as Labor little, they do not see a big difference between many moderates and the Greens or the Labor Party.

“The Conservatives – and I was one of them – really want to regain their party right in the middle, and that’s clearly the battle going on in the Left.”

A woman gets up and holds a piece of paper in parliament
Amid faction tensions, Federal MP Nicolle Flint was critical of a recent membership revision.(

ABC News: Matt Roberts

)

In June, outgoing federal MP Nicolle Flint slammed her party’s state director, describing a decision to deny membership to some candidates as the “most extraordinary and undemocratic act” of her time in politics.

Tony Pasin – the Liberal MP for the federal seat in Barker, which covers South Australia’s rivers and south-east, said the revisions bordered on “religious destruction”.

But Senator Birmingham rejected this claim, saying it would be “ridiculous if we embraced members who did not support our goals or did not support our candidates”.

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