Uncertainty over the political future of South Australian Family First senator Bob Day has thrown his party into disarray, with a push to anoint his successor in limbo.
Senator Day – who last week conceded “I will of course resign” his Senate role after the collapse of his Home Australia empire – has now vowed to remain in Parliament until year’s end. Possibly indefinitely.
The fallen building magnate tweeted on Wednesday morning that he won’t quit before the end of the year because the upper house has too much important business to consider.
If I left @AuSenate now there would be no Family First vote & 1 less SA vote. There isn't time to install a replacement before year's end
— Bob Day (@senatorbobday) October 25, 2016
Marriage plebiscite legislation, ABCC and our other work too important to Family First to have a vacant seat for even 1 day in November.
— Bob Day (@senatorbobday) October 25, 2016
With just three sitting weeks left, he says there isn’t time to install a replacement for him if he quits to sort out the liquidation of his business.
Family First’s state executive met on the weekend but was on Tuesday not expecting to be able to select a replacement from the “eight to 10” nominees for another four to six weeks.
But Senator Day has hinted that even at year’s end he may revisit his decision to resign. In a statement sent to Network Ten on Tuesday night, he said that “the sole reason for my decision [to quit] was to devote all my time and effort to seeing people’s homes built and trade contractors paid”.
“That is still my No.1 priority [but] if, however, that objective looks more likely to be achieved than originally envisaged, then I reserve the right to review my situation,” Senator Day said.
Full statement that was sent to the Australian newspaper regarding their Home Australia stories. I stepped back in to help out. pic.twitter.com/cFhzNZ54wY
— Bob Day (@senatorbobday) September 28, 2016
That prospect would mean a thus far divisive contest for his casual vacancy has been in vain, with the party criticised for discouraging the candidacy of Senator Day’s federal election running mate Lucy Gichuhi and Rikki Lambert – Senator Day’s media advisor and chief of staff – telling ABC 891 he would “review some of the policies that we have been running with and adjust them to an end that actually gets us elected”.
Mr Lambert noted Senator Day’s vote had declined in the July election “and we need to adjust our policy – that’s sensible political operation”.
But despite spruiking his credentials on radio last week, Mr Lambert is no longer speaking to media about his own candidacy, saying only that “as a spokesman for the senator, I can’t comment on party processes”.
A third candidate, state MLC and one-time Liberal minister Robert Brokenshire, didn’t return calls on Wednesday despite fronting media last week.
However, fellow MLC and state Family First leader Dennis Hood released a statement saying: “As was widely published, Senator Day announced his intention to resign from the Senate on Monday, October 17th.
“Subsequent to this announcement, Senator Day advised that a new potential investor has expressed interest in the Senator’s business,” Hood said.
“As previously stated, the State Executive of the Family First Party met on Saturday, October 22nd to determine the process by which a possible pre-selection of a candidate would be conducted. As this was a preliminary meeting, no discussion occurred regarding individual nominations.
“As Senator Day has not formally resigned from the Senate, he maintains the position as a sitting Senator and therefore it would be inappropriate to make further comment on this matter.”
South Australian Family First leader Dennis Hood
Labor and the Greens say Senator Day should resign immediately to deal with the fallout from the collapse of Home Australia, which owes at least $12.5 million and has left more than 200 buyers in the lurch with incomplete houses.
Treasurer Scott Morrison, who will need Senator Day’s vote to pass government legislation, said it was the senator’s call.
“He makes the decision on when he resigns and when he doesn’t resign,” Mr Morrison told FIVEaa, but noted the constitution made it clear anyone declared bankrupt could not sit in the Parliament.
Premier Jay Weatherill said on Wednesday he would be happy to arrange a joint sitting of State Parliament next week to appoint a replacement for Senator Day.
— SA Labor (@alpsa) October 25, 2016
Mr Weatherill told media he had sought advice from the clerk of the state’s Legislative Council and was assured “if [Day] resigned today we can replace him next Thursday”.
He said Senator Day’s decision was “a matter for him, principally”.
“I’m not entering into that… to the extent he’s dedicating himself to the task [of repaying his creditors], that is a worthy thing to do,” he said.