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April 9 - 15, 2010
3The Independent Weekly
"He spent the night shell-shocked.
He s a decent, honourable bloke. He
didn t call reporters or go ratting
on her. He thought to himself, Hell,
I could stand and fight . I think the
numbers were starting to come
Over the weekend, Griffiths
called a colleague or two and they
reinforced his view that something
was rotten in Renmark, and the
stink of it went all the way to North
Terrace. The Liberals had won the
seat of Chaffey, picked up Adelaide
and lost other electorates only
because of the party s under-
funded, unimaginative marginal
He started gathering support, but
conscience got in the way.
"I think I could have won if I d
run," he told The Independent
Weekly yesterday, "but I believed
-- and still believe -- that it s the
leader s right to gather around
her the team she wants, that
she feels comfortable with." He
rang Redmond at 2.30 on Monday
afternoon to tell her he wouldn t
"He s just too bloody decent,"
said a very senior Liberal who took
part in Griffiths downfall. "Too
nice. You ve got to be a real prick
to match it with Rann and Foley
in Question Time. We took the
decision that he couldn t cut it."
While Griffiths brooded, Mitch
Williams did not. Williams is by
nature not a brooder. He s a sheep
breeder, a farmer and a politician
who thinks no more of knocking off
his rivals than he does of knocking
off his lambs tails.
MITCH WILLIAMS has had
previous tilts at leadership. He d
been a member of the Liberal Party
before quitting in 1997 to stand as
an independent against the sitting
Liberal MP -- and the former Liberal
Party leader -- in Mackillop. He won
the seat, rejoined the party, and 10
years later tried to bring down its
That leader was Martin
through last year Williams told
Hamilton-Smith to resign. When
Hamilton-Smith refused, Williams
himself quit the shadow ministry to
further increase the leader s strain.
Redmond, meanwhile, said she d
grab the leadership "with both
hands" if she could.
In the 2009 leadership spill
Williams had also stood for the
deputy s position -- and lost to
And so things stood on Saturday,
March 27: Redmond having thrown
Griffiths overboard without
provisions, Evans waiting to be
anointed, the Chapman forces
furious and ... Martin Hamilton-
If Redmond s first mistake was
refusing to back Griffiths, her
second -- choosing Evans -- was even
bigger. Whatever his strengths,
and he s not without some, Evans
is as popular in the parliamentary
Liberal Party as a picador in a
bullring -- the crowd might cheer
but the bulls in the arena get a tad
So bitter is the fighting between
the Evans and Chapman camps that
they fire squirrel guns across the
valley at each other just for the fun
of it. There was simply no way that
the Chapman forces were going to
accept Evans as deputy leader, no
matter how Redmond entreated
Three hours after Griffiths
pulled out of the race on Monday,
Hamilton-Smith phoned Redmond
and told her he was "considering"
running for the deputy s job.
Redmond told him that she
preferred Evans, but put it no more
strongly than that.
"If she d told me that I would be
completely unacceptable to her,
or that she wouldn t work with
me, I might not have nominated,"
Hamilton-Smith said later.
Around 11 o clock that night,
Hamilton-Smith made up his mind.
He d go for the deputy s job, and
he knew he had a good chance of
winning. The Chapman faction
would back anyone other than
Evans, even if it meant defying
the party leader. The Independent
Weekly, in the preparation of this
report, spoke with most major and
minor characters cast in the drama,
and by their accounts Redmond had
personally phoned almost all in an
attempt to get votes for Evans. But
defy they would.
There were three contestants
for the deputy s position when
the House of Assembly members
met on Tuesday, March 30: Evans,
Hamilton-Smith and Williams.
The procedure is simple. The
MPs meet in the Terrace Room, just
outside Redmond s suite of offices.
The party whip, Ivan Venning, calls
for nominations. The aspirants rise
in their place.
There was Williams, who d tried
to be deputy leader once. And over
there, Evans and Hamilton-Smith,
two ex-leaders now going for the
deputy s job. There are no speeches,
no pitch from the candidates. It s
stand and deliver.
Evans had been a competent
though lacklustre leader; success
in the polls had avoided him.
Hamilton-Smith once had Liberal
neck and neck with Labor in the
polls and should have avoided the
Dodgy Documents Disaster which
haunts him still. Evans is in the
factional Right, Hamilton-Smith is
in no faction -- as Opposition leader
in 2007-9, he would have enjoyed
the treachery of characters in both
camps, had masochism been his
Voting slips are handed out with
the candidates names.
Peculiarly, MPs make their
selection by crossing out the name
of the person they want.
The votes are gathered and
tallied. In the first round, Williams
counted on the thumbs of his hands
the number of MPs other than
himself who voted for him. Two.
That knocked him. Then came the
next ballot, and the result? Eight to
Evans, 10 to Hamilton-Smith.
Continued Page 5
Mitch Williams: Moving Heaven and Earth.
Photo: Kate Elmes
Hatfields and McCoys
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