Mr Ellis recruited three other MPs to his cause and it would have been one thing if they crossed the floor to vote against their own party’s Bill. The legislation would have almost certainly passed anyway. The four MPs would have proven their point but achieved little of value.
It was another thing entirely for them to blindside the government by voting with Labor to adjourn the Bill until next year. It was by all accounts South Australia’s most significant cross in decades and Mr Ellis, backed by the Yorke Peninsula farming community, led the way.
Undoubtedly this was a bad look for the government. The truth is, as far as local farmers are concerned, it was a bad look for the government to push the Mining Bill through before the end of the year anyway.
The Libs knew that, because they accused Labor MPs of doing the exact same thing when they were in government this time last year. Labor tried passing an almost-identical Mining Bill, and the Libs put the brakes on the process. This won the Liberals some goodwill right before the election, but now they look like the bad guys in the long run — and to their own electoral base, no less.
It is clear both major parties want this Mining Bill approved. Now both Labor and the Liberals have taken a turn scoring political points, it seems inevitable the Bill will pass next year. But the government at least has another chance to make it fairer for farmers. After the embarrassment it has just been through, perhaps this time it will listen.