Former South Australian Liberal leader Martin Hamilton-Smith has declared himself an Independent Liberal and joined the Weatherill Government as a minister.
The move has infuriated current Liberal leader Steven Marshall, who described it as an act of political treachery.
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Mr Hamilton-Smith will take on the portfolios for Investment and Trade, Defence Industries and Veterans’ Affairs.
The bombshell removes the prospect of a hung parliament with Labor now holding 23 seats and the support of two independents in the 47-seat parliament.
“For 17 years I’ve served in opposition,” Mr Hamilton-Smith said.
“The Premier has been good enough to give me the opportunity to step up to the plate and I’m going to take it.”
He said both the nation and the state face serious financial challenges and that he would be ‘putting his shoulder to the wheel’ in his ministerial role.
“I think it is time now to put the people first and the politics second,” he said.
Mr Hamilton Smith was state Liberal leader from April 2007 to July 2009.
South Australian Liberal leader Steven Marshall cancelled a trip to New Zealand after the bombshell announcement.
He has branded the move ‘an act of political treachery’ and his former counterpart a traitor.
“Martin Hamilton-Smith should hang his head in shame,” Mr Marshall said.
“Martin sat in Shadown Cabinet yesterday - no inkling - he sat there and spoke to various papers, privy to all our party strategies.
“It is a massive act of betrayal against the Liberal party.”
Premier Jay Weatherill said having Mr Hamilton-Smith in Cabinet was in the best interests for South Australia.
“We know he is hard-working and he has been well regarded by industry and by all sides of politics since being elected to Parliament in 1997,” Mr Weatherill said.
“Mr Hamilton-Smith has been a strong advocate for the defence industries and has worked in a bipartisan manner to advance South Australia’s trade investment."