Malinauskas set to assume SA Labor mantle


Peter Malinauskas, with his daughter last year, should be elected SA Labor’s new leader on Monday.Even before he entered state parliament, Peter Malinauskas was lauded as a future Labor leader in South .

Affable, articulate and intelligent, the 37-year-old also has the necessary Labor pedigree to lead a party rocked but far from decimated by its state election loss.

On Monday he’s widely tipped to take over from former premier Jay Weatherill, ironically, the man who he helped install as SA’s 45th premier in 2011.

As the then state secretary the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA), the powerful “shoppies” union, it was Mr Malinauskas who went with then treasurer Jack Snelling to tell premier Mike Rann that his time was up if Labor was to have any chance of winning the 2014 poll.

What ensued was a surprisingly orderly transition with Mr Rann bowing out and Mr Weatherill taking over.

On the face of things, it was a wise move.

Labor defied the odds to be returned four years ago, and even in the face of ongoing scandals and an unfavourable redraw of election boundaries, performed better than expected last month, retaining a healthy 19 seats in the next parliament.

Mr Malinauskas hasn’t said much about seeking the party leadership, merely confirming he would be a candidate when the Labor caucus meets on Monday.

“After much reflection and discussion with my family, I have decided to nominate for the position of leader of the South n Parliamentary Labor Party,” he said.

But, in the best traditions of union leaders, he’s been working hard behind the scenes, speaking with his parliamentary colleagues to ensure he has the team he wants to seek a return to government in 2022.

Mr Malinauskas only entered parliament in 2015, filling a casual vacancy in the Legislative Council.

He entered the cabinet in a 2016 reshuffle, taking on the police and emergency services portfolios before being elevated to the much more challenging role of health minister when Mr Snelling stood down in 2017.

A government agency insider told AAP that they had never had a minister like him, one that could so quickly grasp the issues of real concern, cut through bureaucracy and bring people together to find solutions.

Another example of his “hands-on” approach came on the night he was sworn in as health minister.

Heading home that day he was driving past the new Royal Adelaide Hospital and decided to just drop to speak with management. No planning, no preparation, no entourage.

At the March election, Mr Malinauskas successfully moved from SA’s upper to lower house, taking over the safe Labor seat of Croydon from the retiring Michael Atkinson.

On Monday he’ll likely assume the mantle of Labor leader, taking charge of an opposition that has been surprisingly quiet since its loss, perhaps already planning its revenge in as little as four year’s time.

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