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25 Jan 2020

Off the Record

With Michael McGuire & Paul Starick | The Advertiser

To the right, quick march

LOYALTIES are being tested in the ascendant conservative wing of the SA Liberal Party, as a showdown for a plum Senate spot enters its final phase.

Maverick Upper House president Andrew McLachlan, who shot to prominence by voting against his own party on anti-bikie laws, and is pictured above
packing heat while serving in Afghanistan in 2010, is in battle for the post with conservative Morry Bailes, a prominent lawyer. They are fighting for the seat, officially vacated this week by Liberal-turned- independent Cory Bernardi.

Bailes is pulling support from firebrand conservatives, including Barker MP Tony Pasin. Boothby MP Nicolle Flint has also written to preselectors urging a vote for Bailes. The unaligned McLachlan has become the candidate of convenience for a moderate faction run by the likes of former federal defence minister Christopher Pyne and his successor as Sturt MP, James Stevens.

The conservatives have recently surged in internal party battles, taking over important executive positions.

And while insiders on both sides say the race is much too close to call, McLachlan is picking up significant endorsements from some on the right.

Mt Barker MP Dan Cregan, a fellow floor-crosser who broke with his own party on mining legislation, has gone on the record with Off the Record to back McLachlan. With fellow right-wing MP Sam Duluk’s ministerial aspirations stunted by claims of a boozy Parliament House Christmas Party, the bookish Cregan is seen as an increasingly powerful
force on the right.

“Andrew has always been a strong supporter of the Hills community and myself,” Cregan said. “We also deeply respect his service in Afghanistan.”

Either way, the conservatives are poised for an eventual win. If Bailes misses the Senate, loyal right-winger Nicola Centofanti is said to have a “mortal lock” on the next race to replace McLachlan in State Parliament.

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