Brock’s back: Independent among new faces in ‘diverse’ Labor cabinet

An emotional independent MP Geoff Brock has snagged three ministerial portfolios in the new Malinauskas cabinet, under a deal the Premier says was brokered after the election to give his cabinet “more regional representation”.

As InDaily exclusively revealed this morning, Brock, who defeated deputy premier Dan van Holst Pellekaan in Stuart, has been rewarded with a seat in the Malinauskas ministry.

The independent MP, who previously served as a minister under the former Weatherill Government, chocked back tears as was sworn in as Minister for Local Government, Regional Roads and Veterans Affairs at a ceremony at Government House this morning.

While the Malinauskas Government already holds power in parliament without Brock’s support, his elevation to the cabinet bolsters its regional credentials and shores up his support.

Malinauskas told reporters after the ceremony that he asked Brock to join his ministry on Tuesday, denying that he floated the prospect of a cabinet position with Brock before the election or that the deal was brokered to bolster Labor’s majority in the parliament.

He said Brock – whom he described as a “fearless advocate” – would maintain his independence and could vote against the government if he felt it was in his electorate’s interest.

“I think I caught Geoff off guard when I asked him to do this,” he said.

“The reason I asked him to do it is because I know he is a good man… with a heart of gold that has been overwhelmingly endorsed by people in the upper Spencer Gulf and I want them represented around my cabinet table.

“Geoff was very determined to make it clear to me when I asked him to join my government that he would be able to maintain his independence and even vote against the government if necessary if he thought that was consistent with his local community interest.”

Geoff Brock at this morning’s swearing in ceremony at Government House. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Brock said it was a “heck of a shock” to be asked to join Malinauskas’ ministry, confirming the prospect was not floated with him until after the election.

“I’ve had no connection or no comments or anything from anybody from the Labor party.

“As for the phone call… it caught me by surprise to speak quite frankly about it.

“I had to strongly consider that and to have another opportunity to represent my people in the inner circle of a government is a great privilege.”

It comes a day after Malinauskas visited the state’s south east and reaffirmed his pledge to invest time and money into the regions.

The Premier described his newly sworn in cabinet as “diverse, progressive and modern”, emphasising the representation of regional-based MPs and women on his frontbench.

The bulk of the ministry reflects that of Labor’s shadow cabinet, albeit with some new inclusions and portfolios.

Newcomers include Joe Szakacs, who has been appointed Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Correctional Services, and Rhiannon Pearce, who was announced as assistant minister to Deputy Premier Susan Close.

The Labor caucus yesterday also elevated federal defector Nick Champion to its frontbench, appointing him Minister for Trade and Investment, Housing and Urban Development and Planning.

Labor’s full cabinet includes:

  • Peter Malinauskas: Premier
  • Susan Close: Deputy Premier, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Minister for Defence and Space Industries, MInister for Climate, Environment and Water
  • Stephen Mullighan: Treasurer
  • Kyam Maher: Attorney-General, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector
  • Tom Koutsantonis: Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Minister for Energy and Mining
  • Chris Picton: Minister for Health and Wellbeing
  • Zoe Bettison: Minister for Tourism, Minister for Multicultural Affairs
  • Nat Cook: Minister for Human Services
  • Katrine Hildyard: Minister for Child Protection, Minister for Women and the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Minister for Recreation, Sport and Racing
  • Clare Scriven: Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries
  • Blair Boyer: Minister for Education, Training and Skills
  • Andrea Michaels: Minister for Small and Family Business, Minister for Consumer and Business Affairs, Minister for Arts
  • Joe Szakacs: Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Correctional Services
  • Nick Champion: Minister for Trade and Investment, Minister for Housing and Urban Development, Minister for Planning
  • Geoff Brock: Minister for Local Government, Minister for Regional Roads, Minister for Veterans Affairs
  • Emily Bourke: Assistant Minister to the Premier
  • Rhiannon Pearce: Assistant Minister to the Deputy Premier

Lee Odenwalder, who was on Labor’s shadow cabinet, will take the role of government whip.

In a press release, Labor claimed to have appointed a cabinet with a “record level of female representation at the top level of government”, emphasising that eight of the 17 people on its frontbench are women.

However, only six women were appointed ministers, compared to nine men.

“What we see here is the representation of a modern Labor government,” Malinauskas said, when questioned about the representation of women.

“It’s a very high level of female representation and we’re very, very proud of it.”

Four ministers – Maher, Cook, Michaels and Hildyard – were absent from this morning’s ceremony and instead watched the proceedings remotely from their home due to COVID-19 quarantine requirements.

The four ministers have been appointed and will attend another in-person ceremony at a later date.

Malinauskas said two – Maher and Cook – had tested positive for COVID and were “quite unwell”.

He said he was unsure whether the ministers had caught COVID-19 while at Labor’s election night celebrations at Adelaide Oval.

“I haven’t received any advice in that regard,” he said.

“I’m absolutely making sure that the whole of my team abide by all the rules and that explains why they’re not here today.”

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