South Australia

Jan 9, 2018

Is Martin Hamilton-Smith Australian politics’ greatest ever turncoat?

Ever in search of greener grass: meet the man who has changed political parties more often than most people change their outfits.

Charlie Lewis — Journalist

Charlie Lewis


Nick Xenophon's threat to major parties in the upcoming South Australian election is undisputable and just over two months out from the poll his SA Best party has claimed their first ministerial scalp.

Former South Australian Liberal leader Martin Hamilton-Smith is quitting his position as Labor government Minister for Investment and Trade (among other portfolios) and has offered to campaign on behalf of Graham Davies, the SA Best candidate in his former seat of Waite. Before you suggest we sack our subeditor, yes, that is all factually correct: Hamilton-Smith has changed parties more times than an indecisive New Year's Eve reveler, and the number of challenges he's made to the various leaders he's served make our federal parties look positively loyal.

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11 thoughts on “Is Martin Hamilton-Smith Australian politics’ greatest ever turncoat?

  1. PaulM

    The answer to the headline question is ‘NO’. That honour still belongs to Billy Hughes. Famously, when asked why he had never joined the Country Party, Hughes replied, “A man has to draw the line somewhere.”

  2. AR

    I know little of the man’s principles, if any, but to denigrate someone for changing their mind is to raise JK Galbraith’s axiom.
    Even Kerr’s Cur came to regret his actions and became enlightened so let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.
    It is this sort of nyah-nyah reportage that makes politics such a despicable, ethics free zone.
    If someone has a Damascene conversion, it should be welcomed if moral.
    Otherwise Xenophon probably pings it “… I wish he wouldn’t help”.

  3. Duncan Gilbey

    Mr Hamilton-Headline is considered somewhat of a joke among my circle of friends. His defection to Labor was considered a low act even by the standards of Australian politics.
    Still, to paraphrase Paul Keating, at least you know that the self serving are trying.
    Good to see Xenophon telling him to, er, nick off.

  4. [email protected]

    He has never changed parties. He left the Liberal Party to become an independent and served in the Weatherill Cabinet in that capacity, similar to Rory McEwen (independent) and Karlene Maywald (Austn National Party) serving from 2002-2010 in the Rann Cabinet. So, you’re headline assertion is wrong; he hasn’t ever changed parties. He just left one, and that’s very common in Australian politics. There’s a long list of MPs who have left their parties to become independents. Changing parties is a whole new set; Cheryl Kernot was maybe the most noteable of recent times, along with Pauline Hanson, Graeme Campbell and Bob Katter. Not to mention Bill McWilliams who left the Revenue Tariffists, Liberal Party and Nationalist Party before becoming the first leader of the Country Party and then leaving them to rejoin the Nationalists. All up, this article is poorly researched, presumptive crap.

  5. Justin Harding

    Actually I’d rate Joe Lyons and Billy Hughes higher on the “rat scale”. Both destroyed their own party which just happened to be in government, and took with them a large chunk of the Labor caucus into a merger with the conservative opposition. They then took on the leadership of the merged party and ended up as the prime minister. Rather larger acts of bastardry than Hamilton-Smith who was, as Gough might have put it, “a fucking pissant state politician”. Hughes did the counter-rat 12 years later and brought down the conservative Nationalist Party government of Stanley Bruce, from which he was expelled. Then he joined Lyons’ United Australia Party, and was even its leader briefly at age 78 after Lyons’death and Menzies’dumping. Having failed to call a party meeting for 18 months, he was expelled again and eventually wound up in the Liberal Party where he remained until his long-overdue demise in 1951. Makes Hamilton-Smith look like a piker.

    1. [email protected]

      I agree Justin. If this is the standard Crikey accept then it is indeed, Crap!

  6. CML

    Charlie…the ‘undisputed’ threat is retreating somewhat, according to the Essential Poll out today. In SA, Mr X now has 22% support, while the Labour party is on 51% (2PP).
    Everyone appears to be waking up to the fraudster/showman…so I wouldn’t be counting chickens just yet if I were you!!!

    1. AR

      You are often so perspicacious but have a blind spot when it comes to ALP, despite being headed by bumBoil Shlernt.
      In the matter of Xenophon however, if you told me it was raining I’d be getting out the sunscreen & big floppy hats.

      1. CML

        OK…I’ll accept that AR.
        But here in SA, the Premier is Jay Wetherill…and despite all the criticism, he is doing a very good job. Even Hamilton-Smith has acknowledged that Jay’s ability as Premier is far superior to anyone on the opposition benches.
        Did you know that SA is now EXPORTING power to Victoria?…and has been doing so for several months…Ltd News has only just caught up with this ‘news’.

  7. Ian Roberts

    Which footie teams ha she supported?

  8. Lesley Graham

    There seems to be a real focus on the political disloyalty that pervades Hamilton-Smiths personality. The thing that peaked my interest (especially in light of the recent rush to the High Court in respect of dual citizenship) this codicil at the end of the story peaked my interest as elephants go in the room this is in my view more than a little problematic”*Hamilton-Smith was hilariously on-brand from the very start. “A year after joining the Australian Army, he apparently attempted to ditch them for the British. This to me sums it all up. the fact that no one else seemed to notice it enough to make mention of it is interest in this thread. I do suggest that Nick Zenophon has got Hamilton-Smith’s measure which should bode well for the party. This guy reminds me of the one person at a party that couldn’t pull if he was the last guy left standing, you know the kind that tries to hang out with the “cool” kids & just ends up having to jump ship because no one wants to be friends with him, yes that’s the one…The fact that he tried to join the British army speaks volumes about his character or lack thereof, & the fact that he only got a guernsey or his 5 minutes of political fame, on a slow news week (sorry I forgot Trump is still stirring up the tweeterfere, but that’s a daily event now) I digress in Crikey on a weekend which is really probably as low as you can get in the news cycle. So if we look at it from that point of view he has kinda made it in an abstract sort of way, in his mind he’s probably running around to his mate (s) with a copy of this article. The fact that he changes parties more times than most people do their underwear is interesting, apart from having this major character flaw he’d probably make a great politician……

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