Daniel Wills | The Advertiser
LONG-serving conservative Liberal MP Terry Stephens is poised to take over as Upper House president, after a ceremonial reopening of Parliament this week that the State Government insists won’t cost the taxpayer an extra cent.
Current Upper House president Andrew McLachlan on Saturday won Liberal Party backing for a move to the federal Senate, but will remain in the state chair on Wednesday to oversee Governor Hieu Van Le’s opening address before formally quitting as an SA MP.
Mr McLachlan won the Senate vote by a large majority, securing the full backing of the Liberal moderate faction and also splitting the right wing.
Under a deal struck after the 2018 election, Mr Stephens is to be the party nominee for president when Mr McLachlan vacates the chair. That was to occur in May, even if Mr McLachlan had not won the plum Senate spot, under an agreement signed by senior party figures including Treasurer Rob Lucas and Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink.
Senior Liberal sources yesterday said Mr Stephens was all but certain to be the party’s nominee, after meetings today.
His candidacy would be backed by key crossbenchers.
The reopening was triggered by Premier Steven Marshall’s move for a procedural reset, as predecessor Jay Weatherill did in 2015 to announce a “bold new agenda” one year after his election.
Mr Marshall told The Advertiser it was common for parliaments to reset themselves, a move which allows him to reboot debates that include shop trading and rate capping.
“I don’t think there is any case over the last 20 or 30 years where there hasn’t been a prorogation,” he said.
“Believe me, there are no time zone changes or nuclear waste dumps coming in our Governor’s speech.”
Mr Lucas said the only extra expenses incurred as a result of the opening ceremony, which features members of the armed forces welcoming the Governor outside Parliament, were a fee of about $4000 to Adelaide City Council to manage traffic and close the road as well as a lunch inside the building.
“It’s handled in the existing Parliament House budget,” he said. “The Government makes no extra allocation for prorogation and reopening.”