News Crossbench SA senator Rex Patrick quits Centre Alliance party to run as an independent
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Crossbench SA senator Rex Patrick quits Centre Alliance party to run as an independent

With Rex Patrick (left) quitting Centre Alliance, Stirling Griff (right) will be the party's sole federal senator. Photo: ABC
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South Australian crossbench Senator Rex Patrick has quit his Centre Alliance party and will contest the next election as an independent.

The former submariner took influential politician Nick Xenophon’s seat in federal parliament in 2017, as Mr Xenophon unsuccessfully tried to pick up a lower house seat in the 2018 South Australian state election.

Senator Patrick, a former staffer for Mr Xenophon, has been an outspoken critic of the next-generation submarine contract and government transparency during his time in office — seeking to emulate the high profile of his predecessor.

“I was honoured to replace Nick Xenophon as a Senator for SA,” he said in a statement.

“In the thirty-three months since then I have done my best to represent our great state, initially as a member of the Nick Xenophon Team and then as part of Centre Alliance.

“I have concluded that in seeking to continue to represent SA, and to ensure that our state’s Senate representation includes a voice from the political centre, the best way forward for me is to strike an independent path.”

On Sunday night, Senator Patrick’s name had been removed from the Centre Alliance website.

His own website spruiked achievements he claimed, such as blocking the takeover of major Australian gas pipelines by a Chinese controlled company, and extra protections for whistleblowers.

It outlined three main policy platforms: promoting Australian manufacturing, “keeping the bastards honest” through measures such as a federal anti-corruption commission and changes to Freedom of Information laws, and reform of the Murray-Darling Basin.

The party has struggled to hold on to its influence since the departure of Nick Xenophon. Photo: ABC

Senator Patrick has been Centre Alliance’s most visible representative, following the departure of the affable and conspicuous party founder, Mr Xenophon.

The party has struggled to hold on to its influence since the departure of Mr Xenophon, who has returned to his legal practice and counts Chinese tech giant Huawei among his clients.

At the last election, Centre Alliance recorded a 19 per cent swing away from it in the South Australian Senate vote, denying former senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore the opportunity to return to the red chamber.

She was booted out of parliament in the dual citizenship saga in 2017.

Senator Patrick’s departure from Centre Alliance leaves Senator Stirling Griff and lower house MP Rebekha Sharkie as the party’s sole representatives in Canberra.

Ms Sharkie secured the former Liberal stronghold of Mayo, covering the Adelaide Hills and Fleurieu Peninsula, at the 2016 federal election, defeating former minister Jamie Briggs.

“I have been pleased to work closely with my Centre Alliance colleagues … and anticipate continuing to confer closely with them moving forward,” Senator Patrick said.

“The Senate will be dealing with many challenging legislative issues through the rest of this parliamentary term, many of which will be vitally important to South Australians.

“I will use the freedom that comes with being an independent to press hard to win the best outcomes for SA.”

Senator Patrick said there was a strong tradition of “centrist representation” in the Senate from South Australia, that he would seek to continue.

-ABC