Some Libs fear Sharman Stone may quit the party over SPC
- From: Weekly Times Now
- January 30, 2014
REBEL Liberal backbencher Sharman Stone says quitting the party would serve "no purpose'' if SPC Ardmona is not supported by her government.
Some senior party members are concerned the regional Victorian MP's "rabid campaigning'' to support the Shepparton-based company could lead to her quitting the Liberals and becoming an independent.
Dr Stone, who won Murray from the National Party in 1996, shares her eastern electoral boundary with new independent MP Cathy McGowan.
Liberal sources believe if SPC was not supported by Cabinet, a "Voice for Indi'' movement which swept Ms McGowan to power over Liberal Sophie Mirabella would be replicated in Murray.
They also believe if Dr Stone decided to contest the next election as an independent, her strong personal following and a likely three-cornered contest with the Nationals, would result in her return.
She has been re-elected with a margin of around 20 per cent on six occasions.
But Dr Stone said she viewed being an independent, in this parliament, as being "voiceless''.
"With a majority parliament it makes no sense to me - I am committed to being a member of the government.
"I wake up every morning to do the best for my electorate and that, I feel, is best served by me being part of the government,'' Dr Stone said.
"As noble as the independent's view and battles are, that I can call a minister directly, and brief cabinet and the Prime Minister, is the best outcome for Murray.''
Dr Stone has a long history of rallying against her party leadership and has crossed the floor both in government and in opposition.
Most notable she led the charge in the lower house in favour of overturning a ban on abortion drug RU486 - defying then Prime Minister John Howard and Health Minister Tony Abbott.
She was one of a handful of MPs to vote against the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in the belief it was not the best deal for farmers in her electorate.
She was Workforce Participation Minister in the Howard Government and served as shadow minister for the environment and immigration in opposition under Brendan Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull.
Since Mr Abbott won the leadership in 2010, Dr Stone has been relegated to the backbench where she now sits in government.
Her strong criticism of cabinet members in the past month has raised eyebrows among her Victorian colleagues.
Some Coalition MPs have said she was far too critical of the cabinet while others have lauded her courage.