Daniel Wills, Paul Starick | The Advertiser
NEW Liberal MP Dennis Hood will agitate for the State Government to revive plans to store high-level nuclear waste in SA, after abandoning Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives in a shock move.
Premier Steven Marshall yesterday received a standing ovation at the first official meeting of Liberal MPs since their election win, before Mr Hood’s surprise shift from the crossbench to becoming a Liberal MP was rubber-stamped.
Senator Bernardi said he learnt of Mr Hood’s defection via a leak from the Liberals.
Mr Hood said there was substantial “overlap” between his views and Liberal platform, and rejected suggestions he was fleeing a sinking Conservatives ship.
“It’s got nothing to do with self-interest,” Mr Hood said.
“The truth is this government is a brand-new government. It has a terrific vision which I completely endorse.”
Joining the Liberals enhances Mr Hood’s chances of securing another eight-year term at the 2022 state election.
The Conservatives had a poor showing at this month’s election and it appears unlikely their Upper House candidate, Rob Brokenshire, will be returned.
Mr Hood said his old party’s 3.5 per cent Upper House vote “is not going to get anyone anywhere”.
“If you want to stay with something that’s heading down that path, then pretty soon you will find that they have no members in parliament and no impact,” he said.
Mr Hood said still supported the expansion of nuclear industries in SA, despite Mr Marshall rejecting the proposal over fears it would expose taxpayers to high risk.
“One of the great things about the Liberal Party … is it is OK for individual members to disagree on policies,” Mr Hood said. “I do support a nuclear waste repository in SA. “I will support the party position.
“That doesn’t mean that I won’t agitate internally for that position. In fact, I will.”
Mr Marshall rejected claims of hypocrisy after his strong criticism of former Liberal leader Martin Hamilton-Smith, who was labelled a “traitor” for joining Labor’s Cabinet.
“We have offered no Cabinet position whatsoever,” Mr Marshall said. “It’s completely different.”
Senator Bernardi said: “It is what it is and I can’t change it”.
“If I can’t control other people’s actions, then it’s a matter for them,” he said.
“We’re going to continue to pursue our principled approach to politics. Stick with us, we will achieve our goals. We just need to have the resolve to see them through.”
Opposition spokesman Tom Koutsantonis said Mr Hood had set “some sort of record” after moving from Family First to the Conservatives and Liberals within a year.
The Liberal party room also endorsed former lawyer Andrew McLachlan unopposed as Upper House President, after two former frontbenchers withdrew plans to nominate.
It is understood Mr McLachlan was supported by Mr Marshall in a late weekend charge.
Eastern suburbs MP Vincent Tarzia, who defeated SA Best Leader Nick Xenophon in the seat of Hartley, will become Speaker when Parliament resumes sitting on May 2.