Australia Ex-Liberal leader Martin Hamilton-Smith quits politics to back Xenophon's hopes

02:42  07 january  2018
02:42  07 january  2018 Source:   ABC News

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A vote for SA Best seems on the cards when Martin Hamilton-Smith next heads to a polling booth.© ABC News A vote for SA Best seems on the cards when Martin Hamilton-Smith next heads to a polling booth. Former South Australian Liberal leader Martin Hamilton-Smith is quitting his ministry in the Labor Government and has said he will not recontest the state election on March 17.

"After long consideration over the Christmas-new year break, I have decided that 21 years of public service, in what was my third career, has been fulfilling and that now is the time to move on," he said.

Mr Hamilton-Smith quit the Liberals to help Labor shore up its narrow fourth-term majority in State Parliament and was rewarded with ministries covering trade, defence, small business and veterans' affairs.

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Mr Hamilton-Smith said he would now be doing all he could to help the candidate from Nick Xenophon's SA Best party, Graham Davies, win his vacated seat of Waite in March.

"I think ...Waite is best served by a Xenophon candidate stepping up," he said.

Mr Hamilton-Smith was elected to Parliament in 1997 and said that, as MP for Waite, he had taken a similar path to one of his predecessors in the southern Adelaide seat.

Long-serving Robin Millhouse also switched his political allegiances during the years he served until 1982, and Mr Hamilton-Smith said his own career had involved putting "his service to the people ahead of party politics".

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Yesterday former South Australian Liberal leader Martin Hamilton Smith quit the Opposition for a seat at Labor' s Cabinet table after 17 years in the party.

"Mr Millhouse was an enigmatic representative when the seat was known as Mitcham," he said.

"When he saw failures in the [Liberal] party, he took the bold decision to continue as the member but under another banner [Liberal Movement and then Australian Democrats].

"I am proud to say that I've been able to deliver excellent outcomes for the seat as an independent [Liberal]."

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Premier Jay Weatherill said the former Liberal would be standing down from Cabinet after its first meeting of the year, on January 18, and he would personally be taking over the portfolios until the election.

"Martin Hamilton-Smith has made an outstanding contribution to South Australia during his four years in Cabinet," the Premier said.

"He decided to quit the Liberal Party and join a Labor Cabinet because he wanted to make a difference — and that's exactly what he's done." Mr Weatherill said the retiring MP had been a tireless champion for SA small businesses and war veterans.

Liberal Sam Duluk, who is the MP in the seat of Davenport, will contest Waite at the state election, while Labor has yet to announce its candidate.

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