The South Australian Labour Party is set to form a minority government in the state, as Independent Geoff Brock sided with the party in exchange for a role in cabinet.
Brock will take on the role of Regional Development Minister, as SA Premier Jay Weatherill has pledged to do more for small business and the state’s regions.
The independent MP’s decision was pushed forward following news fellow Independent kingmaker Bob Such was hospitalised and could be on sick leave for up to two months.
Brock said he made the decision in order to ensure a “stable government”, despite the Liberal Party receiving 53% of the two-party-preferred vote last Saturday. He also recognised the decisions could anger some voters in his own electorate.
“I’ve done this, I’ve put my political aspirations [and] future, maybe, on the line,” he says, according to The Australian.
“My electorate has always been a conservative electorate – that’s fine. I have taken voters from both … major parties. I would hope I have their continued trust to do the best I can, not only for my electorate, but also for South Australia.”
Brock’s backing of Weatherill allows the party to form a majority government with 23 out of 47 seats.
Weatherill became the SA Premier in late 2011, after former premier Mike Rann was ousted by ALP factional bosses.
Weatherill said at a press conference on Sunday morning he would try to be a better Premier in this term and would do more to support small business and regional SA.
Business SA policy director Rick Cairney told SmartCompany regional SA needs to be a top priority and reform needs to happen quickly.
“If you look at where SA is, we have the highest unemployment in the mainland state, very high youth unemployment and there’s also a lack of jobs in regional SA,” he says.
“We need some bold moves to get the economy growing across the whole state. We’ve been focusing on the regions for several years because we understand their importance.”
Cairney says even though the Labour Party will form a minority government, it needs to “move forward with reform”.
“We have a number of challenges confronting us with the exit of automotive industry, effects on the supply chain and a hiatus of defence sector projects,” he says.
“We want to help businesses with the recovery of the economy, as they’re the only way to lead it forward. At the end of the day, it’s about helping business and making it easier to do business in SA so business can grow with the economy for the jobs and future of the young people.”
The Liberal Party has spent the past 16 years in opposition in SA and now looks set to spend another four.
Council of Small Business of Australia executive director Peter Strong told SmartCompany it’s positive news if the SA government intend to focus more on supporting small business.
“One of the things we’ve been pushing lately is the importance of small business to regional Australia in an economic and a cultural sense,” he says.
“He [Brock] needs to take a look at penalty rates and become a champion of lower rates. The country towns and regional areas have been hit hard, particularly on Sundays and public holidays, and it’s about job creation. The other area of importance is infrastructure to ensure people can get to and from these areas.”