White-hot housing market has Merseyside suburb at fever pitch

Prices in Wallasey, on the Wirral, are soaring in a nationwide boom fuelled by the stamp duty holiday, but will it last?

Homebuyers are scrambling for houses in Britain’s latest property hotspot – on the tip of the Wirral peninsula.

The Merseyside town of Wallasey has over the past year recorded a bigger rise in asking prices than any town or city in Britain, according to the listings site Rightmove. And it’s family homes with gardens – a popular choice during lockdown – that have become must-have assets.

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A rogue MP, ‘white-hot anger’, tied votes: What happened in SA politics this week?

While the New South Wales government went to war over koalas this week, the SA government watched one of its own go rogue, resulting in “white-hot anger” from some MPs, while votes were tied in both houses.

It’s a week the Marshall-Liberal government will be looking to put behind it, and one few will forget.

What happened this week?

The resumption of Parliament after the winter break is usually a time for the government to reassess its policy direction and set its priorities for the remainder of the year.

If a reset is what the government was after, it got an almighty one.

Shuffling portfolios around after three ministers resigned amid the expenses scandal, exposed by the ABC, meant there were two positions yet to be filled — the Upper House President and the Lower House Speaker.

The battle for the presidency of the Upper House between Jing Lee and John Dawkins dominated state parliament on its return from winter break.(Facebook)

Usually these appointments are procedural, with the opposition and cross-benchers supporting the government’s chosen nominee.

But this time was different.

The government’s nominee for President, Jing Lee, had a challenger.

Party statesman goes rogue

John Dawkins has been a Liberal party member for 48 years and always said he’d put his hand up for the job.

Jing Lee is the first Malaysian-born Chinese person to be elected to South Australia’s Parliament and won her party’s support.

But on Tuesday morning, John Dawkins confirmed he would run for the role.

It was a break of tradition but an unprecedented move. The difference this time? He almost had the numbers.

With Labor supporting his bid, all he needed was a couple of cross-benchers to write his name down on the ballot paper, and they did.

The first vote was tied, as was the second.

So two names were drawn at random from a box: “The honourable J.S.L Dawkins,” read the Legislative Council Clerk.

That secured Mr Dawkins the presidency, a $150,000 pay-rise, a chauffeured car and a parliament house portrait — a great raffle to win, by anyone’s standards.

White man sits in large wooden chair with red lining smiling
John Dawkins won the presidency without his party’s support, after his name was drawn from a box.(Supplied: SA Parliament)

But by day’s end, he had been unanimously booted him from the parliamentary party — the first such move in 20 years.

Treasurer Rob Lucas said it was the result of the “white-hot anger” some MPs held over his decision to run.

The government’s pain was almost doubled in the Lower House, after Independent MP Frances Bedford challenged government-favourite Josh Teague.

It was a long shot but the first vote was a tie — 23-all and one informal vote, despite the government holding the majority (24 of 47 seats) in the House of Assembly.

It was clear someone within their own party was sending them a message.

The second time around Liberal MPs could be seen showing each other their votes and the party line was followed. Josh Teague won 25-22.

‘You’re the speaker, not the king!’

Mr Teague’s first task as Speaker was to give an explosive first speech to the Parliament.

In it he addressed the ICAC investigation into country MP expenses, and claimed comments by Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas were “problematic and usually unlawful.”

Mr Malinauskas had publicly told all Labor MPs to comply with the ICAC investigation or risk being booted from the party.

A man sits in a wooden chair lined with green leather with a stern expression in front of a small microphone
Josh Teague’s first speech in the Speaker’s chair caused quite a stir in the state opposition.(Supplied: SA Parliament)

The new Speaker claimed this action “risks constituting, among other things, a contempt of the Parliament.”

His statement was met with outcry from the Opposition’s Minister for Government Accountability, Tom Koutsantonis, who took issue with Mr Teague commenting on party business.

Mr Koutsantonis was kicked out of the chamber within three minutes of the speech beginning.

“You’re the Speaker, not the king!” he said before leaving the chamber.

Conventions broken on both sides

There’s no doubt the results in both houses are embarrassing for the Marshall Government.

They got their pick in the Lower House but not without controversy and the fallout from the Upper House decision is still playing out.

It’s the first time since 1979 that the Government of the day hasn’t had Parliament support its pick for a presiding member.

South Australian Parliament
It was a historic week in state parliament, with traditions and conventions broken on both sides of politics.(Gary Rivett: ABC News)

Despite being kicked out, John Dawkins maintains he wasn’t going to attend their meetings anyway.

The matter of his party membership will be dealt with by the state executive.

But it wasn’t just Liberals breaking convention this week.

Labor was just as unruly.

It’s tradition that when a new Speaker or President is appointed the members of respective chambers walk with them to Government House in a formal procession, to watch them be sworn-in by the Governor.

This time however, Labor MPs in the House of Assembly boycotted the ceremony in an obvious act of protest — a move that has undoubtedly set the tone for the rest of the Parliamentary year.

What happens next?

Liberal MPs will now be hoping they can put this week behind them and get back to the job of governing the state.

But with an opposition that’s even more fired up than before, it’s unlikely the events of the week will be forgotten soon.

Legislation to ban single-use plastics passed the Parliament on Wednesday proving that, despite all the chaos, some work was achieved.

There’s also an ICAC investigation to consider, with Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Ann Vanstone continuing the work into country MP allowances which was started by her predecessor.

So now, the biggest question mark over the Government is what findings, if any, the Commissioner will make.

Until then, the cloud of uncertainty will hang over the heads of the MPs involved, and the government at large.

There’s already two former Liberal MPs sitting on the crossbench — Sam Duluk and Troy Bell — both of whom have court proceedings underway.

The Government has a clear majority over Labor for now but if it loses more MPs to the crossbench it could be a long and bumpy road ahead.

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‘White-hot anger’ sees John Dawkins expelled from SA Liberal Party after taking presidency

SA Liberal Party tensions have boiled over with a senior minister saying there is “white-hot anger” at new Legislative Council President John Dawkins, who was expelled from the party today.

Mr Dawkins ran for the prized position of President without his party’s support, beating the government’s preferred candidate, Jing Lee to secure the $351,000-a-year post.

The result was decided after two secret ballots were tied, with Mr Dawkins effectively selected by lucky dip — prompting the Liberal party to banish the veteran from its parliamentary ranks.

Treasurer Rob Lucas said Mr Dawkins had been expelled with unanimous support.

“He understood the consequences of his decision, he’s made his bed, he’ll need to lay in it now.”

Mr Lucas said it was the first such move in about 20 years.

John Dawkins outside Parliament after being elected Legislative Council President yesterday.(ABC News)

Mr Dawkins told the party he was never going to attend Liberal Party meetings if elected president anyway, “as a general Westminster tradition”.

“I’ve also pointed out my loyalty to the party over nearly half a century,” Mr Dawkins said.

“There have been three other members of the party who have taken the same steps as I have … one is a member of the Liberal Party to this day.

The matter of Mr Dawkins’ ongoing party membership will be left to the party’s state executive.

Ms Lee said she was “disappointed, obviously” about the presidency result.

Claims of racism in vote

South Australian Greens MP Tammy Franks has accused Labor of “dog-whistling” to racists by fanning questions around the Chinese links of failed Liberal Legislative Council president candidate Jing Lee.

In the weeks prior to the vote, Ms Lee had faced questions over her relationship with China, with three conservative federal MPs calling for their state colleague to be investigated over her links with the Beijing-backed Xinjiang Association.

Labor frontbencher Tom Koutsantonis also questioned the Malaysian-born MP’s links with Beijing.

“The Opposition isn’t saying that Ms Lee is a Chinese spy or a Communist Party sympathiser,” he told reporters.

“What we are saying though, is that there are some serious questions that she needs to answer.”

Greens MP Tammy Franks looks at the camera.
Greens MLC Tammy Franks.(Facebook)

Greens MLC Tammy Franks, who supported Jing Lee for the presidency, said Labor’s questions were disingenuous.

“If the Labor Party is not saying she is a Chinese communist spy, why were they using those words?” Ms Franks said.

Ms Franks said Labor’s stance was reminiscent of its tactics against Liberal candidate Carolyn Habib (now Carolyn Power) at the 2014 state election.

“The Labor Party had the ‘Can you trust Habib?’ effect, the dog-whistle racist effect that they wanted out of it, which I found really disappointing.”

Labor flyer on Liberal candidate Carolyn Habib
Part of a Labor flyer on Liberal candidate Carolyn Power that was distributed during the 2014 state election.(Supplied)

Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas said Ms Franks had made an “extraordinary accusation”.

Three federal Liberal MPs wrote a letter to the state party office calling for an investigation last week.

Mr Malinauskas said Ms Lee had avoided media scrutiny.

“She’s refused to answer those questions and has avoided doing media interviews,” he said.

“That’s for Jing Lee to explain and the Liberal party to explain.”

Ms Lee said she was a proud Australian citizen who was focused on building relationships with multicultural communities.

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