South Australian Liberal leader clings onto reins, eyes more control

Jacob Shteyman
AAP
2 Min Read
SA Opposition Leader David Speirs says while Dunstan was disappointing, he's not going anywhere.
SA Opposition Leader David Speirs says while Dunstan was disappointing, he's not going anywhere. Credit: AAP

South Australian Opposition Leader David Speirs has vowed to tighten his control over the state’s Liberal Party, after a bruising by-election result.

Voting is still under way in the Adelaide eastern suburbs seat of Dunstan but early signs point to a historic loss for the 39-year-old Liberal leader.

With about one-third of votes still to be counted, Labor’s Cressida O’Hanlon holds a 3.8 per cent two-party preferred lead over Liberal candidate Anna Finizio after a 4.4 per cent swing.

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If confirmed, it would be the first time a South Australia opposition has lost a seat to the government in 116 years.

Mr Speirs acknowledged the disappointing result but said he wasn’t going anywhere.

“I have canvassed many of my colleagues over the last 48 hours ... and my colleagues were firmly supportive of me continuing in this role,” he told ABC Radio on Monday.

But he said change was needed after the surprise swing.

“I can use this as a reason to take control of some things within the party,” Mr Speirs said.

“To drive a different approach to perhaps the way the party is run and this should be a call to action for me and my team.”

The party should consider emulating Labor’s system of formalised factions as a more structured approach to organising, he said.

“I think there needs to be a level of rigour and discipline to the way that the different groups within the party operate,” Mr Speirs said.

“Now, we haven’t made a decision on that ... but ... it’s something we should look at, because I look at the discipline of (Premier) Peter Malinauskas’ party and the way it binds different groups together and I envy that.”

Both major parties suffered a fall in primary votes after a campaign defined by mud-slinging and personal attacks.

A potential swing to the Greens as a result of voter disillusionment was predicted in the lead-up to polling day and was borne out by an 8.8 per cent swing to candidate Katie McCusker.

“... We should have countered that and we didn’t do that. So that’s something ... we need to do better,” Mr Speirs said.

“... Both major parties need to take a good look at the surge of the Greens ... at holding the Greens to account for their policy positions which many people, I don’t believe, are aware of.”

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