VETERAN SOUTH AUSTRALIAN MP Dr Bob Such has died, aged 70; his passing — confirmed this evening — will trigger a by-election for his seat of Fisher, and an overwhelmingly likely win for the Liberal Party would tighten, but not overturn, the result of the South Australian state election in March. This column wishes its condolences to Dr Such’s family. Even so, life goes on: and a re-energised swipe at another Liberal turncoat now falls due.
I wanted to comment e’er briefly tonight on the sad news that former Liberal turned SA Independent, Bob Such, has passed away, aged 70; re-elected just seven months ago for a further four years, Such was one of two Independents who held the balance of power after the state election in March, until erstwhile “Independent”and ALP stooge Geoff Brock took it upon himself to re-install the ALP in office despite the Liberal Party winning more than 53% of the statewide two-party vote.
At that time, and amid uncertainty as to who did what in ceding the election outcome to Labor, this column incorrectly apportioned blame to Dr Such in what was at the time the common view he had collaborated with Brock to return Labor to power. I apologised and issued a correction at the time, and it remains a point of regret now.
I certainly wish to minute my condolences and good will to Dr Such’s family at this difficult time; the terrible affliction of a brain tumour is one I have witnessed more than once within my social network in recent years — once involving a young boy — and it must rank as one of the most awful things to have to deal with. I do wish those who mourn Dr Such peace, as I do Dr Such himself in death.
But life goes on, and this development will quickly have consequences for South Australian politics; it seems almost certain that the Liberal Party will now reclaim the seat Dr Such took with him when he left the Liberals in 2000, winning re-election as an Independent on four subsequent occasions.
The news of Dr Such’s death is barely an hour old at time of writing, and already there is an overwhelming amount of social media chatter suggesting the Premier, Jay Weatherill, will find some cynical ploy to deny the voters of Fisher a by-election and/or to rig the outcome. Whilst I don’t subscribe to either of these ridiculous conspiracy theories for a moment, the fact they are being floated at all belies the real cynicism and disenchantment that exists in South Australia in the wake of an election conducted on rigged boundaries, whose outcome was determined by a stooge and a treacherous ex-dog of the Liberal Party.
Any by-election in Fisher will take place against a statewide backdrop of 24 Labor seats, 21 Liberals, and one other “Independent,” which is Brock; the starting point would have been 23-22 Labor’s way were it nor for former Liberal leader Martin Hamilton-Smith selling his party and the state out to accept a ministry earlier this year.
With no disrespect to the late Dr Such, it seems the 2014 state election simply won’t go away in South Australia; should the Liberals win his seat — and had Hamilton-Smith put responsibility before his back pocket and his ambitions — then a deadlocked Parliament, 23-all between the Liberals and Labor, would again place Brock in the hot seat, but I contend would make it far more difficult for him to justify backing his Labor Party mates.
Certainly, the justification he relied on most heavily — that Labor needed a single additional vote for a majority whilst the Liberals required two, and in Dr Such’s absence this could not be provided — would no longer exist.
Whilst the death of Dr Such is very sad, South Australians are once again going to be forced to confront the fact that their state election — without putting too fine a point on it — was rigged, and that they are saddled with the resulting illegitimate government for a further three and a half years before another opportunity to be rid of it presents itself.
I would remark, however drily, that it now seems impossible for the Liberal Party to win a majority in South Australia: with the exception of the Labor landslide in 2002, the party has now won a majority of the two-party vote in that state at every election for the past quarter of a century, winning an outright majority only in 1993.
Ultimately, the culpability of Liberal turncoat and former leader Martin Hamilton-Smith grows that little bit heavier with tonight’s news, for a win in Dr Such’s electorate — added to Hamilton-Smith’s vote — would have given the Liberals 23 of the 47 lower house seats and with them, an overwhelming moral case to form government.
This column enthusiastically and unapologetically tore into Hamilton-Smith when he defected earlier in the year to accept a ministry in Labor’s government. I stand by every word penned in that article, and it deserves to be read again now by anyone with an interest in South Australian politics and where it is headed in the aftermath of Dr Such’s passing. Readers can access the article here.
Vale, Bob Such.