Veteran Liberal throws hat in ring against Jing Lee to be SA Upper House president

Veteran Liberal MP John Dawkins will challenge Government nominee Jing Lee to become Upper House president as South Australian Parliament resumes today.

The position is vacant after former president Terry Stephens quit in July as part of the Country Members Accommodation Allowance scandal.

Mr Dawkins announced this morning he would stand as a candidate for president.

He was first elected to the Legislative Council in 1997 and served as the Opposition whip in the Upper House for 17 years until 2018.

In a statement, Mr Dawkins said he had always “championed the integrity of our Parliament as the cornerstone of accountable, transparent government”.

The president earns $351,000 per year.

Last week, Ms Lee fought back against concerns from the Labor Opposition about her relationship with the Beijing-backed Xinjiang Association of SA after appearing in social media pictures with members of the group.

In a statement last week, Ms Lee said she was a proud Australian citizen who was focused on building relationships with multicultural communities and she did not support China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ policy.

Mr Dawkins plans to retire at the next election, in 2022.

SA Upper House
South Australia’s Legislative Council.(File: ABC News)

Lucas backs Lee, ‘disappointed’ in Dawkins

Treasurer Rob Lucas, who is also retiring in 2022, said Mr Dawkins’ position in the Liberal Party would be untenable under the party’s rules if he did actually run this afternoon.

“We’ll approach that when and if that has to occur,” he said.

Mr Lucas said he was “disappointed” to find out this morning that Mr Dawkins would challenge Ms Lee.

“John’s been a long-time colleague of mine for a number of decades … so I’m disappointed he’s made that decision,” Mr Lucas said.

Greens MLC Tammy Franks said she would support Ms Lee in the secret ballot, further increasing her likelihood of winning the vote.

She said South Australia’s Legislative Council was “archaic” and in need of reform, and Ms Lee was more supporting of its members being able to participate in estimates committees for the first time.

“I got a much better response from Jing Lee in terms of supporting that aim,” Ms Franks said.

With Labor and his own support, Mr Dawkins would have nine out of the 22 votes in the chamber.

Frances Bedford in the role of deputy speaker during SA's Parliament
Independent MP Frances Bedford in her role as deputy speaker in 2017.(Source: SA Parliament)

Teague chosen as speaker

In the Lower House, first-term Liberal MP Josh Teague was chosen as the new speaker this morning over independent former Labor MP Frances Bedford.

Mr Teague won 25 votes to 23, after an earlier secret ballot was tied 23-all with one informal vote.

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There are 24 Liberal MPs in the House of Assembly.

Before being elected, Mr Teague said: “It is vital that the speaker is fair, impartial, and acting in accord with our rules-based system of this House; in the interest of all members. I will do that”.

One of his first moves in the role was to reprimand Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas for “problematic” comments about MPs’ requirements to comply with the ICAC investigation into the Country Members Accommodation Allowance and removing Opposition transport spokesman Tom Koutsantonis from the chamber.

The Lower House had to choose a new speaker after Vincent Tarzia was made a minister in July after Stephan Knoll, Tim Whetstone and David Ridgway quit.

The ABC had revealed Mr Knoll and Mr Whetstone claimed the Country Members Accommodation Allowance while not in Adelaide.

Opposition Lower House whip Adrian Pederick also resigned his position after the ABC questioned whether he lived in Adelaide or the Murraylands.

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