Bar Fight In Lib Partyroom

SA Gov

New leaked documents have laid bare the ongoing division in the South Australian Liberal partyroom, with the State Opposition caught out repeatedly backtracking on its pledge to “Save the Cranker”.

Opposition Leader David Speirs and his Shadow Planning Minister Michelle Lensink have been publicly cranking out the rhetoric in support of a Greens motion calling for changes to state planning laws in a bid to stop a proposed development on the current Crown and Anchor Hotel site.

Mr Speirs himself posted a selfie from the hotel front bar, declaring the venue “more than just a pub”, and penned a letter to the Heritage Council “in support of the nomination to enter the Crown and Anchor Hotel onto the South Australian Heritage Register”.

Ms Lensink meanwhile addressed a weekend protest, pledging the Liberal Party was set “to support Rob (Simms’) motion” in parliament this week.

However, sensitive partyroom documents leaked to the State Government just minutes after a tense meeting of Liberal MPs this week show that in reality Ms Lensink has been advocating a very different approach to her Liberal colleagues, and that far from cranking up opposition to the proposed development, the Liberals have been watering it down.

In a joint party paper – leaked to the Government straight after the partyroom meeting – she notes that the party’s position thus far has been to “support state heritage listing (and) seek co-existence of the live music activities with the proposed student accommodation”. However, rather than backing Mr Simms’ motion, Lensink recommends removing the substantive clause from the Greens’ draft opposing any partial demolition or adaptive reuse of the Crown and Anchor site and calling for state heritage laws to be changed.

Instead, she suggested to her Liberal colleagues they endorse a far more broad clause that the Legislative Council “calls on the Malinauskas Government to explore avenues for the Crown and Anchor to receive State Heritage Listing”.

In the discussion paper, Lensink argues the existing Simms clause “is problematic” because it would set a precedent for the Planning and Development Act that could be triggered “every time opponents oppose a particular development proposal”.

But Ms Lensink went on to water down even that proposed compromise, sending a WhatsApp message to party colleagues – which was also immediately leaked – highlighting her “new” suggested amendment to the motion.

This time, she suggested parliament “notes that the SA Heritage Council has provisionally listed the Crown and Anchor Hotel on the State Heritage Register [and that] the proposed development exceeds the maximum building height for the applicable Capital City Zone”.

And after all this, the Liberals eventually opted to back the Government’s own amendments to the motion – which adds several new clauses including one encouraging MPs to make submissions to SCAP to allow the panel to make an informed decision when the application is considered.

Ms Lensink’s retreat from her earlier public pledge to support Mr Simms’ motion followed the SA Property Council intervening in the public debate, criticising the Liberal Party for being anti-development.

Ms Lensink needs to explain this backdown – has she been browbeaten into a policy backflip by her opponents in the Liberal Party’s Right faction? Or was she never serious about backing Mr Simms’ motion?

As put by Tom Koutsantonis

Once again, the SA Liberals can’t help but tear each other down – there are enough leaks out of this partyroom to soak a barmat.

This latest leak – which came just minutes after a tense partyroom showdown – highlights the policy chaos in the Liberal Opposition and is clearly designed to further damage the leadership of David Speirs.

To be clear – we’re glad the Liberals have finally backed the Government’s own position, which Labor has maintained from the start. We’re not criticising where they’ve ended up – just the succession of compromises to their original public position they’ve cycled through to get here.

Patrons and supporters of the Crown and Anchor should be disappointed by this betrayal, with the Liberals saying one thing at a public rally to garner applause yet progressively walking away from their commitment behind closed doors.

It seems Ms Lensink has either been forced into a backflip by her Right-faction opponents in the Liberal partyroom – or that she never had any intention of supporting Mr Simms’ motion.

If a patron at the Cranker bought a beer that was as watered-down as an SA Liberal policy position, they’d send it back.

/Public News. View in full here.