Nick Xenophon’s former Senate colleagues are defending his role in the management of his party in Canberra, despite not being an elected member of state or federal parliament.
The colourful former senator failed in his bid to be elected to South Australia’s Lower House in last weekend’s state election, after quitting the Senate in October last year.
The party currently has two senators, Stirling Griff and Rex Patrick, and one Lower House MP in Canberra, Rebekha Sharkie.
It is also likely to have two Upper House members in South Australian Parliament — long time advisor Connie Bonaros and former tabloid journalist Frank Pangallo.
Senator Griff argued it was entirely fair for Mr Xenophon and fellow former senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore to still have a say in the party’s policy development at a federal level.
“We meet as a management committee, Nick is on that management committee, Skye Kakoschke-Moore is on that management committee, Rebekha Sharkie, myself, Rex Patrick and Connie Bonaros, who’s been involved with the party for many years as well,” he told RN Breakfast.
“All major decisions are still made as a group, and effectively made as the group that was originally elected by South Australians to the parliament.
“But Nick doesn’t have a veto vote at all, it’s a group decision as to whether we support particular bills and issues.”
Mr Xenophon was repeatedly asked throughout the SA election campaign about what would happen to his SA Best party at a state level if he failed to pick up the seat of Hartley, and described his role as a mentor rather than a backroom puppet master.
He also denied he would force one of his state Upper House members or federal senators to quit, allowing him to return to the political fray.
On election night, he berated his colleague Rex Patrick live on Channel Nine for offering to give up his Senate seat.
Senator Patrick was Mr Xenophon’s senior advisor, before being picked to replace him in Canberra.
The Nick Xenophon Team (NXT), which is in the process of changing its name to SA Best in Canberra, has lost some of its clout on Capital Hill since Mr Xenophon’s resignation — and is still without a parliamentary leader.
Skye Kakoschke-Moore was forced to quit the Upper House amid the dual citizenship fiasco.
Her replacement Tim Storer, who was sworn in on Monday, quit the party after a bitter public feud with Mr Xenophon.
He was successful in his battle in the High Court to take the Senate position, despite no longer being a member of NXT.
Senator Griff said he believed Mr Storer would share his former colleagues’ positions on key issues such as company tax cuts, despite no longer being a member of NXT, and denied there was a need to “lure him back” to their partyroom.