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SA Liberals: leadership tussles « Previous | |Next »
July 6, 2009

The bare facts. There was a leadership spill in the SA Liberal Party on Saturday between the current leader Martin Hamilton-Smith and contender Vicki Chapman, the deputy leader. Hamilton won with a 11-10 victory. He told the fractured Liberal partyroom he would stand aside. Then he changed his mind. He then said there would be another leadership spill on Wednesday to sort things out.


The leadership contenders now Vicki Chapman, Isobel Redmond who won the Deputy leadership on the Saturday, and former frontbencher Mitch Williams, who quit the shadow cabinet a week ago after failing to convince Hamilton-Smith to stand aside for the good of the party.

What a mess. Why didn't Hamilton Smith just stand aside for Chapman? Make it clean? The SA Liberals are in no position to take the fight to the Rann Government in 2010. In the 2006 election the two-party result in Adelaide was 62.6-37.4 in favour of the Rann Government, with the statewide Labor 2-party preferred vote was 56.8% The Liberals face electoral destruction, due to the ongoing infighting from bitter divisions along family and factional lines.

The Liberals look like a bunch of clowns in a rundown fleapit circus who spend so much of their time and energy fighting amongst each other that they have forgotten about the show. They have little chance of gaining any of Labor's marginal seats in Adelaide in 2010 and may even have to set aside hopes of returning to government in 2014.

I have no idea what the factional agendas are in this current leadership tussle. I suspect they have little to do with public policy, and much more to do with the settling of old political scores. They do need some form of circuit breaker to rupture this self-destructive cycle flowing from the baggage of the past.

Surely a badly wounded Hamilton-Smith is finished as leader. He has bought political disasters on himself and has little credibility, now that the political drama, from the fallout from the fake ALP documents Hamilton-Smith used in late April to try to discredit the Rann government, has become such a farce.

Hamilton-Smith was assured of a clear run to the state election in March 2010 by those he thought posed the greatest threat: deputy leader Vickie Chapman and the man he knifed to get the top job, Iain Evans. Hamilton-Smith had promised Chapman that he would stand aside if he lost the election, to ensure a smooth leadership transition. Then Hamilton-Smith destroyed himself with the dodgy ALP documents affair.

Martin Hamilton-Smith, who seized the leadership of the troubled South Australian Liberal Party just over two years ago from Iain Evans in a bloody partyroom coup, has announced that he will not stand for the party leadership on Wednesday. He let loose at the ill-disciplined party and the moderate faction forces he blamed for his demise--- a "factional stitch-up" he called it.

That leaves Chapman (former deputy leader), Redmond (current deputy leader) and Williams in the contest, with Williams given little chance of victory. This will be the third Liberal Leader since the 2006 election. What will happen next is female leader of the Liberal Party--- the first since NSW's Kerry Chikarovski was deposed in 2002. No doubt, many male members of the party will be deeply worried about having a female leader.

All this leadership conflict has pushed the solid work the Liberals did on water issues in 2008. Work on policy issues have been forgotten in 2009. Apparently the leadership contest was not about policy differences but about who was the best person to sell the message.

What message? All I know is that the Liberals proposed a stadium ( to give the SANFL a city stadium of its own) as the centrepiece of a western CBD redevelopment plan to revitalise the city. They proposed this in opposition to the Rann Government's planned new Royal Adelaide Hospital on the same site (at the Port Rd-West Tce corner). But they were never committed to the stadium.

But they are right in that this precinct, is the undeveloped jewel in Adelaide’s crown and is blighted by ugly rail yards; and with Victoria Square no longer the centre of Adelaide. Increasingly community events and focus have moved to the banks of the Torrens. So we must “look to the river” for the future----it is a site for a Federation Square (as in Melbourne) or a Riverbank precinct (as in Brisbane and Melbourne). These are good ideas.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:48 AM | | Comments (14)


The Libs here seem to be marginally more relevant then Family Farce. It seems to me that they are more of a social organisation then a political one these days. Who ever heard of a serious policy out of the Libs in Adelaide?

they did come up with more storm water recycling ---it was then pinched by the Rann Government. But your general point remains. Pity, since the Rann Government needs an effective opposition to make it more accountable and to keep it on its toes.

They are beginning to look a little arrogant as the Liberal Party turns in on itself. The Rann Labor Government must be delighted with the recent turn of events.

it looks as if we South Australian's have to wait until the Rann Government goes stale and becomes dysfunctional --like the NSW one.

who is Isobel Redmond? What does she stand for? I've never heard of her until now.

Isobel is an active Rotarian and member for Heysen and is linked to the Right's Iain Evans, the son of former factional stalwart Stan Evans. The Evans family faction is said to dominate local branches.

Long running family feuds characterise the state Liberal Party (eg Vicki Chapman is associated with Ted Chapman)---three decades of bitter party infighting. Both Evans' and Chapman's families had been embroiled in a factional war since a party split in the 1970s, which led to the formation of the Liberal Movement.

If challenger Isobel Redmond wins tomorrow's leadership ballot she says that two former ministers from the last Liberal government - Iain Evans and Rob Lucas - are set to be promoted. She represents the Right faction, which stands for social conservatism + free market economics.

A former lawyer, Redmond held the shadow attorney-general post since 2006 but has generally kept a low profile. When debate over the Rann government's anti-bikie laws was raging, she took a cautious attitude, saying the legislation was unlikely to stop illegal activity, but that she did not have any better ideas. A policy lightweight-- a poster girl for the Right faction, who is being pushed forward to block Vicki Chapman from taking the leadership?

thanks for that. I don't know much about the SA Liberal Party. So much history.

Another question . Why do some Liberals MP's say that having Vicki Chapman as leader would be a suicide bomb; whilst say they know at some point they will have to go through the "Chapman experience".

These are Liberals MPs opposed to a Chapman victory. What are their grounds for this opposition? That they belong to the Right faction and so opposed to the wets?

Go to Vicki Chapman's website. There you can have a look their Adelaide Master development plan and their Storm Water Harvesting proposals. These are Liberal Party policies, rather than what Chapman stands for personally or factionally, but it is a start.

Chapman was Shadow Minister for Health, and so an advocate of rebuilding the Royal Adelaide hospital on the old site.

The current conflict is a replay of the Brown/Olsen conflict that got the SA Liberal party into so much trouble in the mid 90s, where a record landslide win in 93 was totally eroded in 97.

The right of the SA Liberals don't want to let the wets' Vickie Chapman take the leadership. That means backing an Isobel Redmond/Steven Griffiths ticket and forcing Chapman onto the backbench.

They want more members of the right to get elected in 2010 so they can toss her out. Their agenda is to force the Chapman mob (moderates) out of the party where they will wither and die just as their 1970s predecessors did (The Liberal Movement).

I'm not saying you are wrong when you wrote this "Chapman mob (moderates)" but my mind boggled when I saw Chapman described, relatively I presume, as a 'moderate'.
That would have to make the mob to the 'right' so far off in the spectrum to be out the door, down the street and over the far side of the park.

Hmmmm----What else could you call the Chapman faction---the wets? Social liberals? Liberals? There has to be some political differences between the two major factions, otherwise they don't make sense as factions with a long history.

If you don't then you'd have to say that Hamilton -Smith was just a cleanskin in relation to the family feud. ,

Isobel Redmond is the new leader of the South Australian Liberal Party, defeating Vickie Chapman 13 votes to nine. So the Right faction rule. Does that mean Vickie Chapman will be forced out after the next election?

The Rann Government is already using the dodgy documents affair against Redmond --since she was involved in giving it the OK to the forged documents and not carrying out due diligence. And Rann + Co will continue to do so beat the Liberals around the head.

yep, all Labor ministers have to do now is to keep raising the dodgy document affair to keep the Liberals on the back foot.

The Liberal Party has no real alternative but to assume that the 2010 election is a lost causes. They could very well be reduced to a rump. They have little alternative but to clean out their stable of the dead wood and prepare for the long haul to the 2014 contests.

Did I read right a report that the lawyer Isobel Redmond, from Hamilton Smith's own social conservative faction, had scraped in as new SA opposition leader?

yes you did---there is probably an uneasy factional truce in the divided LIberal Party for now.