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South Australia: Democrats Leader wants federal Leader to resign after alcohol-related incident.

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Wednesday 10 December 2003

South Australia: Democrats Leader wants federal Leader to resign after alcohol-related incident


MARK COLVIN: But first, the Democrats Leader And rew Bartlett has so far withstood the growing calls for his resignation, but he may find the latest more difficult to let pass.  


The South Australian Democrats, the heartland branch of the party, want him to quit immediately and if he doesn't, they've called for the party room to spill the leader's position.  


Senator Bartlett is making no comment about this latest call for him to resign and a spokeswoman for Acting Leader Lyn Allison would only say that she is aware of the South Australians' opinions. 


But that state's Democrats are in tune with one of their federal representatives. 


Former leader Natasha Stott Despoja has also told Andrew Bartlett that he should resign. 


Emma Griffiths reports.  


EMMA GRIFFITHS: Natasha Stott Despoja doesn't want the leader's job again, but she's certain Andrew Bartlett shouldn't keep it after his confrontation last week with a Liberal senator in the chamber.  


Senator Bartlett verbally abused Jeannie Ferris and grabbed her by the arm, an action he's repeatedly apologised for.  


The stood-aside Democrats Leader hasn't commented on whether the incident was fuelled by a few Christmas drinks at a Liberal Party function earlier in the night, but he has vowed to get help for a health problem.  


Senator Stott Despoja, his colleague and friend, has told him he should quit in recognition that the behaviour is just not acceptable.  


The South Australian Democrats agree.  


Leader Sandra Kanck.  


SANDRA KANCK: This is really a turning point for the Democrats and there must be strong action. 


The decision that was made on Saturday for Andrew to stand aside was a good first step, but he has to take the next step which is stand down so that the party can put a new leader in place.  


EMMA GRIFFITHS: Sandra Kanck has emailed her thoughts on the matter to the Democrats Federal Executive and she's spoken to Andrew Bartlett over the phone. She says he's seriously looking at the questions.  


The South Australian Democrats Leader has gone public with her thoughts in an interview with the ABC's South Australian Political Correspondent Simon Royal. 


SANDRA KANCK: I accept that he is being honest with me and he is seriously looking at it. I can't put any more interpretation on it than that. But I think we have to go further that just looking at it. 


If we do not take the action here it looks as if the Democrats are condoning violence using drunkenness as an excuse, and that is simply not on.  


SIMON ROYAL: Where do you think your party sits at the moment with the electorate? 


SANDRA KANCK: Well, feedback that I've had from the general public is incredibly negative. People have attacked me and pointed at me and said 'what are you doing?' as if I have somehow been responsible for it. 


So every one of us as Democrats is being held responsible for some foolhardy actions of Andrew Bartlett and it is going to have negative consequences if something is not done.  


EMMA GRIFFITHS: For a party currently polling only one per cent of the vote, those negative consequences could spell a wipe-out.  


But Sandra Kanck also believes it would be morally and ethically unacceptable for Senator Bartlett to stay in the job..  


So far Andrew Bartlett is still on leave, not commenting on any developments or opinions within the party.  


A spokeswoman for the Acting Leader Lyn Allison says she is aware of the statements from the South Australian party.  


Leader Sandra Kanck says there's no time to waste.  


SANDRA KANCK: I don't have any power to say to him you must do this in a particular timeframe.  


SIMON ROYAL: You'd have an idea I guess. 


SANDRA KANCK: Well, I would certainly like this to happen by tomorrow.  


SIMON ROYAL: Who would you like see replace him? 


SANDRA KANCK: I will accept anyone that the party puts up.  


EMMA GRIFFITHS: The problem for the partyroom is they don't want to go through another bruising leadership ballot. They have to agree on one candidate, another challenge for the party which resolved the last leadership crisis with a compromise leader, and that was Andrew Bartlett.  


MARK COLVIN: Emma Griffiths.