Knoll to quit politics – InDaily

Former Marshall Government minister Stephan Knoll has confirmed he will not contest the next state election.

The shock decision came despite a challenge to his seat of Schubert dissipating last week, with Labor’s Tony Piccolo opting to withdraw from a planned tilt at the Barossa stronghold after a mooted boundary redraw – that would have made the margin a vulnerable 5 per cent – didn’t eventuate.

Knoll tonight confirmed his decision in a text message to colleagues, which read: “I have just informed the Premier that I won’t be standing again at the next election.”

“I want to thank each and every one of you for everything over the past 6.5 years… to serve in this place has been the highest honour – all then more because of the people I have been able to serve with,” he said.

“There is still much to do in the next 16 months, including winning the next election and I look forward to helping in whatever way I can to achieve that.”

In a separate statement later posted to social media, Knoll – who did not return calls from InDaily – said that “after much reflection and discussion with my family I have decided not to nominate at the next state election”.

“I have a choice to become either a better politician, or a better person to those closest to me,” he said.

“I am choosing the latter.

“The past six months have undoubtedly been some of the most difficult I have experienced and it is important to acknowledge that at the time this put a significant strain on my mental health.”

One colleague said he believed Knoll was “pretty genuine about [leaving for] family reasons”.

“He understands the pressures politics puts on families and has chosen family over politics,” they said.

Knoll was widely seen as a future Treasurer – and even leader – until a series of recent missteps.

A messy standoff over his attempt to sack the former Cemeteries Authority chair prompted an accusation in parliament that the State Government acted unlawfully, while he later had to retreat from a push to axe several bus services and close three Service SA centres after public backlash.

Then, in July, the then-Transport and Infrastructure Minister stood aside from the cabinet during the country members entitlements scandal, after paying back tens of thousands of dollars he conceded he wasn’t sure he should have claimed.

But an ICAC inquiry later decided he had no further case to answer, and he was expected to rejoin the frontbench in due course.

In a statement Premier Steven Marshall said: “The pressures of service are great, and they are increasing.”

“I am disappointed that Stephan is not continuing,” he said.

“He has been a great colleague and friend [but] I understand and respect his decision.

“I thank him for his service in cabinet and to his electorate.”

Marshall’s closest adviser, Government media unit manager Ashton Hurn, is considered a frontrunner to replace Knoll in Schubert if she seeks preselection. The sister of former West Coast Eagles AFL captain Shannon Hurn has strong family ties to the Barossa region, and has sought endorsement for the seat previously – losing out to Knoll when he was first preselected for the 2014 election.

Premier Steven Marshall’s media director Ashton Hurn and SA Health CEO Chris McGowan at a media conference last week. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Grain Producers SA boss Caroline Rhodes is another said to be strongly considering a tilt.

She would be strongly backed by the Liberal Right, which has now lost its two most senior members with Knoll’s departure and Sam Duluk’s enforced exile pending a charge of basic assault.

Knoll’s decision came as Flinders MP Peter Treloar also announced he would not recontest his seat in 2022.

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Former South Australian transport minister Stephan Knoll to quit at 2022 election

Once viewed as a potential future premier, South Australian Liberal MP Stephan Knoll has announced he is quitting politics.

The former transport minister resigned from Cabinet earlier this year amid the fallout from the Country Members Accommodation Allowance scandal.

He has since been cleared of any wrongdoing by the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption, but has remained on the backbench.

He was first elected in 2014 and represented the safe Liberal electorate of Schubert, in the Barossa Valley.

In a text message sent to Liberal colleagues on Tuesday, Mr Knoll said he had informed Premier Steven Marshall of his decision not to stand at the next election, in March 2022.


“I want to thank each and every one of you for everything over the past 6.5 years,” he said.

“There is still much to do in the next 16 months, including winning the next election, and I look forward to helping in whatever way I can to achieve that.”

In a subsequent statement posted on social media, Mr Knoll said he made the decision in order to spend more time with his family.

“In taking on the roles I have held, it is inevitable that sacrifices were made by those closest to me in order to enable me to devote the time and energy to the enormous task my ministerial workload demanded,” he said.

“I have a choice to become either a better politician, or a better person to those closest to me.

“I am choosing the latter. With my daughters at primary-school age, now is an important time to be more engaged and present as a father.”

Mr Marshall said he was “disappointed” but understood and respected Mr Knoll’s decision.

The ABC has contacted Mr Knoll for comment.

Stephan Knoll was transport minister for two years but did not mention the role in his resignation statement.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Malcolm Sutton)

From Liberal rising star to backbencher

The former transport, infrastructure and local government minister was long considered a rising star of the Liberal Party, before the expenses scandal unfolded in July.

But the Member for Schubert had already faced many challenges before that.

Just one month before his resignation, two key policies within his portfolios — an overhaul of Service SA centres and of Adelaide’s metropolitan bus network — were unceremoniously dumped after various failed pitches to the public.

Adelaide tram
Stephan Knoll entered Parliament in 2014.(ABC News: Matt Coleman)

In his statement, he included local government and planning reform among his achievements as a minister, along with tunnels being dug under South Road as part of the North-South Corridor.

He had also looked set to face a more significant challenge at the 2022 poll, after a draft electoral boundary redraw threatened to put a dent in the margin of his ultra-safe Barossa Valley seat.

Labor veteran Tony Piccolo — considered a grassroots campaigning champion within the Opposition — swiftly announced he would run against Mr Knoll in Schubert instead of his own seat of Light, to “stick by” his Gawler stronghold.

The decision to shift Gawler into Schubert was eventually reversed in the final electoral boundary redistribution report, released last month, with Mr Piccolo deciding to run again in Light.

Another Liberal also quits

Long-time Eyre Peninsula MP Peter Treloar also announced his plans to retire from politics after 12 years in State Parliament.

“The time has come to hang up my boots,” he said.

“With nominations now open for incumbent Liberal MPs, I have advised the Premier and the Liberal Party state director that I will not be seeking re-election at the next state election in March 2022.

Man on right standing in shearing shed looking pensive, wool piled up on the left
Flinders MP Peter Treloar was a farmer before entering Parliament.(Supplied: Robert Lang)

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time, and am grateful for the confidence and support given to me as the local Member of Parliament.

“I look forward to the remaining 16 months, with many more kilometres to travel yet.”

Labor frontbencher Chris Picton told State Parliament it was rare for an MP to leave Parliament “with such tremendous respect from both sides”.

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Knoll in Labor’s sights after boundary redraw

Labor is considering pitting frontbencher Tony Piccolo against axed Marshall Government minister Stephan Knoll at the next state election, with a proposed boundary redistribution shifting his Gawler base into Liberal-held territory.

The draft report of the Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission, released on Friday, saw a carve-up of rural seats in SA’s north, with a flow-on effect in the northern suburbs.

The commission proposes shifting around 12,500 voters from the Labor-held seat of Light – primarily from the seat’s suburban heart of Gawler – into neighbouring Schubert, held by Stephan Knoll.

Knoll, who last month resigned from Steven Marshall’s cabinet amid an exodus of frontbenchers and office-holders caught up in the country allowance scandal, will see his margin slashed from a safe 14.4 per cent to just 5.4 per cent – with insiders from both parties privately declaring the seat extremely vulnerable.

Labor insiders say that if the draft boundaries are retained, the Opposition will launch a major offensive to snare Schubert – which could entail convincing Light incumbent Piccolo, the party’s planning and local government spokesman, to switch seats and run against Knoll in 2022.

One source said the decision would rest with Piccolo, but noted: “If Tony was to do that, it will receive support from the party.”

Tony Piccolo is making no comment on his political future for now. Photo: Kelly Barnes / AAP

It would present a difficult choice for the shadow minister, who for much of his parliamentary career has battled against the tide in a marginal seat. Now, with redistributions and his own electioneering having helped transform Light into a relatively safe Labor stronghold on a nominal 12.8 per cent, he faces the prospect of having to instead shift a 5 per cent-plus Liberal margin to his favour.

Piccolo told InDaily today that caucus members had undertaken not to comment on the proposed boundaries as “the party wants a chance to digest the results first”.

“It’s up to the party to now come to a position [so] it would be inappropriate for me to make any comment in the short term,” he said.

But Gawler mayor Karen Redman told InDaily the town was “aligned more north than south”.

“We align ourselves to the Barossa a bit more… we’ve considered ourselves as a Barossa community,” she said.

However, she added: “I think Stephan Knoll, regardless of his issues, would be very hard to displace.”

Speculation has been rife too that Schubert could be vulnerable to a high-profile independent campaign, with party sources flagging Redman as a potential candidate.

She told InDaily she’d “never say never”, but added: “I haven’t turned my mind to it… and haven’t been approached from an independent point of view.”

“No-one’s approached me as an independent [and] I certainly don’t have the financial backing to run an independent campaign,” she said.

Knoll did not respond to inquiries today.

Independent Geoff Brock has already flagged leaving his mid-north seat of Frome to contest neighbouring Stuart, after the draft redraw shifted his Port Pirie base into Liberal frontbencher Dan Van Holst Pellekaan’s electorate.

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