Bernardi likens Xenophon to 'Con the Fruiterer' as SA Best backs away from 'No Pokies' platform

Bernardi likens Xenophon to 'Con the Fruiterer' as SA Best backs away from 'No Pokies' platform

Bernardi likens Xenophon to 'Con the Fruiterer' as SA Best backs away from 'No Pokies' platform

Updated 7 February 2018, 16:40 AEDT

Nick Xenophon wages war on two fronts, fending off jibes from Cory Bernardi, and also battling political rivals in SA who have pounced on confirmation he is backing away from his 'No Pokies' platform.

Senator Cory Bernardi has unleashed on SA Best leader Nick Xenophon, comparing him to the 1980s TV character Con the Fruiterer.

The Australian Conservatives leader launched a spray in the Senate this afternoon during debate on the Federal Government's proposed welfare bill.

Senator Bernardi said Mr Xenophon travelled to Ceduna to see how the welfare card trial was going, but believes he didn't listen to community members who said the trial was a success.

"He's quite fond of quoting that character from The Comedy Company for those old enough to remember — Con the Fruiterer — where he's always 'looking-looking', 'looking-looking', and he created division in the community," Senator Bernardi said.

The Nick Xenophon Team in Canberra has vowed to vote against the card's rollout in two new sites.

Senator Bernardi said he took offence to Labor's characterisation of Mr Xenophon as a Liberal, and said his voting record in the Senate showed he was from the left side of politics.

"It's not just the Greens that are obstructive in this space. There's a far more slippery and cunning character, former Senator Nick Xenophon," Senator Bernardi said.

"He's the grand inquisitor who's launched enough inquiries to make Senate clerks weep.

"He's flip-flopped and as the leader of the government has said on a number of occasions, wibble-wobbled like jelly on a plate on policy that he knows works but he doesn't want to offend the left-wing base that he courts."

Mr Xenophon has hit back, accusing Senator Bernardi of gutter politics to boost his own candidates' chances of success at the SA election.

"I know Cory is trying to give me the rough end of the pineapple," Mr Xenophon said.

"The fact is, being attacked by Australian Conservatives and the Liberal Party as being too left wing, and the Labor Party and the Greens as being too right wing, then SA Best must be pretty much in the political centre."

Senator Bernardi has previously revealed his intention to run candidates in the state election.

Last month he told The Australian newspaper he intended to run 20 candidates.

Xenophon confirms 'No Pokies' policy is dead

It comes amid criticism Mr Xenophon has also flip-flopped on his poker machine policy — a policy which he has fought on for years, originally entering politics as the 'No Pokies' candidate.

So far, he has avoided calls to take a policy to ban poker machines to the upcoming state election.

At a mental health forum in Adelaide today, the woman who took legal action against Crown Casino over poker machines, Shonica Guy, asked all the parties if they would follow Tasmania's lead and remove all poker machines from pubs and clubs.

SA Best spokesman and candidate for Schubert Paul Brown joked, "Our party used to be called 'No Pokies' so I guess you've got our vote".

Ms Guy wouldn't accept that as an answer, at which point Mr Brown ruled it out.

"That's not a realistic ambition," he said.

"You can't remove pokies from every hotel but you can have some controls."

Other parties at the forum leapt on the comments.

"Today they've gone from no pokies to pro pokies. I mean that is significant," Health Minister Peter Malinauskas said.

Australian Conservatives MLC Robert Brokenshire said it was a huge admission.

"It's one that I support from the point of view that there's some honesty coming from Mr Brown today," Mr Brokenshire said.

When questioned about his candidate's comments, Mr Xenophon confirmed he would not be pushing for a state-wide ban.

SA Best will next week release its pokies policy, which will include steps to reduce the number of the machines in pubs and clubs, Mr Xenophon said.

"There will be only one party that will have a credible alternative to dealing with the scourge of poker machines," he said.

"To do it overnight is obviously unrealistic but SA Best will have a plan and a pathway to reduce the damage dramatically and also to cause head-on the damage caused by gambling."