Cory Bernardi has hit out at his former party less than three weeks before the South Australian election, telling guests at the Australian Conservatives' campaign launch in Adelaide yesterday that the Liberals were "unmotivated" and not a credible alternative to the Weatherill government.
The Australian newspaper reports today that South Australian senator and former Liberal Party state president said while Labor did not deserve to be returned for a historic fifth term at the March 17 election, Opposition Leader Steven Marshall had failed to convey a clear plan to turn around the state's economic woes and was not resonating with voters.
The centrepiece of the launch on Sunday attended by approximately 200 people was to push for a high-level nuclear waste repository that would generate an estimated $6.7 billion in annual revenue - rivers of gold, if you will - and help South Australia become the "Saudi Arabia of the south".
"We would be an economic powerhouse. We would be the strongest state in the commonwealth," Senator Bernardi said.
He said it would allow for $3bn in annual taxes to be scrapped, including payroll tax and the emergency services levy.
Senator Bernardi, who quit the Liberal Party last February, said Premier Jay Weatherill's "experimental politics", notably the hasty uptake of renewable energy, had hurt the state's economy and reputation, but Mr Marshall had not clearly articulated what he and his colleagues stood for.
"After 16 years, they (Liberal Party) seem intent on coasting into government," he said. "I find wherever I go, people say 'I don't want Jay Weatherill, I don't trust Nick Xenophon, I don't know what Steven Marshall stands for'.
"There is no real credible alternative that is going to provide an economic blueprint for this state.
"I'm agnostic in this battle about who is the best person to lead South Australia.
"I see the deficiencies, I do not see an economic plan from any of them." Liberal spokesman Rob Lucas rejected the criticism, highlighting a "program of lower tax policies which in many respects we would've thought the Australian Conservatives would be supportive of".
Senator Bernardi said Mr Xenophon's SA Best was a "cult of personality" with little substance.
"You've got a bunch of people who have nothing in common other than they've been seduced by Nick Xenophon's cult of personality," he said.
Australian Conservatives will stand 33 candidates in the state's 47-seat lower house, but the upper house is its focus, with a balance of power position the aim.
After amalgamating with Family First, it gained two upper house representatives, Dennis Hood and Robert Brokenshire, who is up for the re-election.
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