MAYOR Sam Johnson has joined forces with Nick Xenophon’s SA Best Party in a bid to win a seat on the Legislative Council in the South Australian election on March 17.
Mr Johnson will take a leave of absence from his role as Port Augusta Mayor from the first week of February until the end of the election, with Deputy Mayor Brett Benbow set to assume the position.
In the case that Mr Johnson is successful, a by-election for the role of Mayor would not be necessary according to the Local Government Act, as a council election is already scheduled for November this year.
Mr Johnson explained the process.
“If successful at the state election, then I would need to resign (as Mayor),” he said.
“Being within 12 months of a general election, somebody from within council can be appointed rather than actually having to go through the trouble of a by-election.
“If I’m not elected, I’ll resume back into the mayoral role, the leave of absence suspends and I go back in and then we have the general election later this year.”
Mr Johnson said he made the decision to run for upper house because he wants to provide a voice for regional South Australia.
“The current mix of the Legislative Council in South Australia, whilst there are some good people there, there's no one that actually lives 100 or 200 kilometres outside of Adelaide,” he said.
“I believe regional South Australia has been forgotten and does need that voice of advocacy, it does need that person that can actually champion local issues.”
Mr Johnson – a long time member of the Liberal Party – pledged his allegiance to Mr Xenophon, becoming the third name on SA Best’s upper house ticket.
He said there was no animosity in his decision to quit the Liberals, but he felt the best way to represent the state’s regions would be with SA Best.
“Looking at some of the policies that were being rolled out, particularly from the Liberal Party in the coming election, they weren’t instilling in me as a Mayor, as a regional citizen and as a father that confidence that they were going to do what was needed for regional South Australia,” he said.
“We need people that actually live and breathe the country, people that understand it.”
Mr Xenophon played a key role in securing a $110 million loan from federal government for the solar thermal power plant in Port Augusta.
Mr Johnson said that while the support for solar thermal showed just how genuine Mr Xenophon was, it wasn’t a key factor in his decision to join SA Best.
The father-of-two said he has no intention of moving away from Port Augusta if elected.
“We’re still going to live in the same house, we’ll still reside here, we’re still going to travel those thousands of kilometres each week on country roads,” Mr Johnson said.
“I want to see my kids and other people’s kids have a future in regional South Australia.”