South Australia’s parliament has had its own Independents’ Day, and with plenty of fireworks.
Shortly after the stroke of midnight, the sensational coup was confirmed by secret ballot, bringing an end to a remarkable day in state parliament.
So how did we get here?
The Liberal Party started its term in Government with 25 of the 47 Lower House seats — a clear majority.
There were only three MPs elected as independents at the 2018 state election – Frances Bedford, Geoff Brock and Troy Bell (a former Liberal who moved to the crossbench after being charged with theft).
However, the last 18 months have seen a rapid growth of the crossbench as several Liberal MPs left the party.
Sam Duluk suspended his own party membership in February 2020, as he faced an assault charge following an infamous Christmas party at Parliament House.
In February this year, Fraser Ellis suspended his Liberal Party membership after being charged with deception offences.
His move to the crossbench saw the government lose its majority, but Mr Ellis vowed to continue to support the state government on confidence and supply motions.
But it was another Liberal, Dan Cregan, who would deliver the final knockout blow to the government’s numbers in the house.
This time last week, he was a little-known first-term Liberal backbencher representing a blue-ribbon Adelaide Hills seat.
By Friday, he had defected from the party and moved to the crossbench, leaving the government with just 22 of 47 seats.
Mr Cregan made his presence on the crossbench known immediately.
His first move from the other side of the chamber was to side with Labor to set up a committee to investigate the conduct of the Deputy Premier Vickie Chapman.
His next move was to support changes that would enable him to take over the top job in the Lower House.
How will this affect South Australians?
In short, it probably won’t.
The role of speaker is coveted amongst many politicians, not least for its perks – a $150,000 pay increase and a personal driver (which Mr Cregan has already said he won’t be using).
To the general public, for the most part, it doesn’t really matter who sits in the speaker’s chair.
Some have said the fact the role has to be held by an independent will hopefully mean parliament will be a bit less unruly, but many are questioning whether that will be the case.
Last night’s shenanigans also included a change to how the parliamentary calendar is formulated.
Labor, with the support of the crossbench, was able to move that the speaker can set sitting hours, without direction from the government.
This paves the way for more sitting days to be held this year, and even next year in the lead-up to the election.
What will it mean for the state election?
The March 2022 vote is shaping up to be an interesting one, and the independents are becoming increasingly important.
The bigger the crossbench grows, the less likely it is that either of the major parties will win the election outright.
South Australia has a long history of relying on independents to be kingmakers.
After the 2014 election, Jay Weatherill outmanoeuvred Steven Marshall, arranging a late-night pizza with independent MP Geoff Brock to convince him to back Labor, eventually forming minority government.
Whether or not Steven Marshall has learnt his lesson in negotiations remains to be seen.
What we do know is that having former Liberals run as independents will mean the party has to funnel money, and effort, into finding and backing party candidates in seats they would not usually have to worry about.
Sam Duluk, Fraser Ellis and Dan Cregan are all running as independents in usually safe Liberal seats, leaving the party with a huge task ahead.
Steven Marshall might be well served to start researching pizza bars in preparation.