26 Mar 2018
Daniel Wills | The Advertiser
TWO former Liberal frontbenchers are set to battle it out for the lucrative position of Upper House President in a partyroom meeting today that will divide the spoils of election victory.
Liberal MPs will meet for the first time since Premier Steven Marshall’s droughtbreaking win a week ago.
Eastern suburbs MP Vincent Tarzia is set to be rewarded for his defeat of SA Best leader Nick Xenophon in the electorate of Hartley with the plum spot of Lower House Speaker. However, Liberal MPs John Dawkins and Terry Stephens have both confirmed to The Advertiser they plan to nominate for the equivalent Upper House position of President.
Party rules dictate the decision will be made by a vote of only their eight Upper House MPs, with Liberal sources tipping a close vote that could finish deadlocked at four all.
In such a scenario, the winner would be selected by drawing a name from a hat.
The same strange tie-breaker was used in a Liberal preselection stoush for the Glenelgbased seat of Morphett last year, resulting in former federal MP Matt Williams being knocked out of the count and incumbent Duncan McFetridge finally losing to Stephen Patterson.
Mr Dawkins yesterday said “it has been my intention to stand for some time” and pointed to his lengthy experience as acting president since being elected to Parliament in 1997. He has previously held frontbench roles including regional development.
Mr Stephens is aligned to the party’s right, and won a new eight-year term last week. He has held frontbench positions for the Liberals including sport, tourism and prisons.
It is understood some are also urging Liberal MP Andrew McLachlan, a former military lawyer who crossed the floor to oppose the party’s position on bikie laws, to stand.
The President wins a 75 per cent pay bump, worth more than $100,000 per year.
After the last election, Labor tensions boiled over on the floor of the Upper House amid a dispute between incumbent president John Gazzola and his replacement Russell Wortley.
Mr Gazzola branded Mr Wortley “a parasite and an embarrassment to the Labor movement”.
Mr Marshall has eliminated chauffeur-driven cars for chairs of key parliamentary committees as part of a costsavings drive. Appointments for those positions, as well as Liberal party whip posts, are expected today.
Terry Stephens, left, and John Dawkins.