Labor facing dual by-elections as Kevin Foley and Mike Rann quit politics

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Kevin Foley relaxing with his sons Ryan and Ben. Picture: Brenton Edwards
Source: AdelaideNow

Former Treasurer Kevin Foley has announced he will quit State Cabinet on October 20 – the same day as Mike Rann resigns as premier.

LABOR is bracing itself for two by-elections early next year, in a climate where the party’s brand has been tainted at state and federal levels.

The by-elections  in Premier Mike Rann’s seat of Ramsay and Police Minister Kevin Foley’s seat of Port Adelaide  will be the first major test for incoming Premier Jay Weatherill.

Mr Foley sparked the need for another by-election  though he has not set a date  by announcing yesterday he was standing down from the ministry on October 20.

In a move that caught many people by surprise, Mr Foley, who appeared close to tears, said it was time to go and he was “very tired”.

“I haven’t got the energy to continue as a minister,” he said.

Only last week, Mr Foley, while on an overseas trip, had said he had no intention of quitting Parliament although there was growing pressure within the party for him to go at the same as Mr Rann.

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Some members of Mr Foley’s powerful Right faction have been lobbying hard behind the scenes for months to have him leave well before the election.

“This is the right time for Kevin Foley,” he said. “I guess in many ways you could say I’m being a little selfish.

“At this point in my life, I’m putting my own personal self-interests ahead perhaps of those of the Government.

“But right now, I would prefer to forge a new life than to remain in government another two years.”

Mr Foley’s actual departure date from politics remains unclear.

He said at one stage that he hoped to leave Parliament before Christmas but later amended that to say he could stay on until Mr Rann left early next year, so there could be two by-elections on the same day.

The Government will face stiff opposition in both seats from the Liberals and the Greens.

ALP state secretary Kyam Maher said the timing of by-elections was up to the Parliament but he believed it would probably be more effective and less costly to have them on the same day.

“Any election will be hard fought and we will run very strong campaigns in both those seats,” Mr Maher said.

In Port Adelaide, the ALP candidate is likely to be lawyer Susan Close although local mayor Gary Johanson is considering running as an independent.

Labor faction leaders have been concerned about holding Port Adelaide, which has a margin of 12.8 per cent, especially if a well-known independent runs.

In Mr Rann’s northern seat of Ramsay, held with an 18 per cent margin, the party’s candidate is likely to be former lobbyist Zoe Bettison.

But even if Labor lost both seats, it would still have 24 in the Lower House  an absolute majority.

Mr Foley said he had not been in the job market, but had been approached by a couple of people. “The first thing I want to do is take my sons to Bali and some quality time with them,” he said.

“I want to get fit and get my life back into balance. I can’t wait to get out of the public eye.”

Mr Rann paid tribute to Mr Foley, saying he had played an immensely important role within the Government as his deputy and as a minister.

“His role in restoring South Australia’s finances and financial reputation has been crucial in building economic confidence and laying the foundations for the strongest future for our state,” Mr Rann said.

“His legacy for SA’s future is huge. I thank him now as others will thank him in the future. I wish him all the best for the future.”

Opposition Leader Isobel Redmond said Mr Foley’s resignation from State Cabinet highlighted the crippling division and disunity within the Labor Government.

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