Things are reaching fever pitch in the City of Pubs Slash Churches.

Adelaide's famous Flugelman sculpture, a metaphor for something.

The election that everyone thought was going to be a low-key shoe-in for Labor has turned out to be quite the ride.

There haven’t been any really sexy promises – there’s not enough spare cash around. There’s been a Liberal Party pledge to have a good hard look at a particularly pesky roundabout. South Australia’s one-way freeway might end up being a two-way freeway, which just draws embarrassing attention to the original decision to make it only go one way.

An upgrade here, a dull but worthy project there. But no crispy, delicious pork barreling, not really.

What’s made things interesting is the surprisingly eager reception of Liberal Leader Isobel Redmond by the punters, and the concomitant plummet in popularity of the hitherto adored Premier Mike Rann.

Ms Redmond started making inroads with her no-nonsense style, and people started to think it might not turn out to be another Rannslide after all.

Then, overnight and off the back of yet another poll, it suddenly looked like she could actually win.

Blood in the water, that was. And Labor was in there, helpless, flapping their arms and screaming “underdog status”.

All sorts started circling, looking for a kill.

During the year, you get the little political tricks. Judicious, vested-interest leaks. “Backgrounders” that remain backgrounders because they’re 73 per cent bullshit that no one wants to be held to. Anonymous tip offs in suspiciously familiar language, twisted statistics, and so on.

But when the frenzy begins, the practitioners of the political dark arts deploy their full forces. World-weary hacks all have stories about election time shenanigans.

What has surprised me as a relative newcomer – this is only my second election as a reporter, and the first time round I was still trying to tell my donkey vote from my ass – is the Machiavellian scale and complexity.

Late night, phone rings. An ex-Liberal has been speaking to an ex-Labor bod who in turn has been speaking to a non-party affiliated opponent of Rann. And each one of them is involved in numerous subplots. Whispers, rumours. Did I know this, this and this?

It’s juicy stuff, but it’s unprintable.

Phone calls continue – messages chink in to my voicemail as I’m force-fed more sordid details, my gossip-liver engorging by the day. Other hungry fish start to play media outlets off against each other.

“If you hint at this in the paper, then Radio Guy will make it a talkback topic, then Television Woman will pick it up and expand on it, then Bloke at Another Newspaper will go to town”… as though it’s all a done deal and the responsibility will be shared.

Or (when one side wants something printed about the other): “You can feel totally confident printing this as far as we’re concerned…  we’re confirming it off the record… although we can’t say anything on the record and (implied) we’re unfortunately deeply unlikely to offer a helping hand should the Defamation Beast eat you for supper”.

Then there’s the condescending (when they just don’t want something printed): “I’m just worried you’ll get your (little) self in some legal trouble because I don’t think you quite realise what’s going on here”.

To the downright threatening: “If you print that about me there’s a high chance a third party will be so upset they might do something really really serious. There could be a tragedy.”

Meanwhile, on the surface, the pollies keep doing what they do best, claiming credit for things beyond their control, trying to score cheap points, repeating ad nauseum the things their wonks have told them play well. Rehearsing little phrases like military drills, never deviating from the Party plan.

At least the practitioners of the Dark Arts are more creative.

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16 comments

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    • acker says:

      05:58am | 18/03/10

      2 Pinballs ?

    • BTS says:

      07:38am | 18/03/10

      Yar, I’m not picking up the metaphor either???

      Just be an Adelaide thing…

    • matt says:

      05:59am | 18/03/10

      Except without the backgrounding you wouldn’t have anything to write.

      You’d have to go off press relesases and government announcements.

      You can’t deride “spin” at the same time you feed voraciously off it.

      Why don’t you spend a week or so covering politics and only reporting what’s on the record - announcements and hansard. Ban youself from being backgrounded, or speaking off the record.

      Wonder how your newsdesk will like that?
      And in any case - why is it a crime for politicians to spin but “much-needed opinion” for a newspaper - many of which are just as partisan.

    • AFR says:

      07:12am | 18/03/10

      What’s Adelaide?

    • Gee Jay says:

      11:40am | 18/03/10

      The best place in Australia to live AFR—-thats what Adelaide is,and i hope it stays that way!

    • Henry says:

      02:11pm | 18/03/10

      Safe to say the convicts education system is still of the same standard!

    • Dave Munro, F.R.E.E. Australia Candidate for Goyde says:

      09:12am | 18/03/10

      There used to be a busker in Rundle Mall who referred to them in song as “Malcolm Frasers Stainless Steel Balls”, might have been Glynn Nicholas. By the way turn the pic 90 degrees to see how they really sit. Oh yeah, the election. If you read the media we have two parties in South Australia the only way to tell the difference between them is the colours, one is red the other is blue, though I think nowadays they are both blue, or is that red.

      Did you know that one of the newest parties in Australia, which today is one year and five days old, is also running 6 candidates in this election? Not many people do as we are ignored by the mainstream media. We get out there at protests that the media are warned off covering, talking to like minded groups and using things like the internet, youtube, facebook, twitter etc. We don’t have the funds to plaster fluting everywhere, not that we would, what a waste of money. You also won’t hear us on the radio or see us on TV. Pity really, we are running two candidates in the Legislative Council and four in the House of Assembly. We have a website which contains our Policy Directives and National Manifesto and a bio on each of our candidates among other interesting tidbits of information. You may hear a derogatory reference to us in the press when the government and its media arm refer to us as the pro bikie party but that is about it. Move past the spin and controls, do some research and make your vote count.

    • Zeta says:

      10:44am | 18/03/10

      Of course it’s a media conspiracy, and not the fact F.R.E.E has links to outlaw motorcycle gangs.

    • Pete says:

      02:22pm | 18/03/10

      Well acording to a television show last night Labor have close links to the mafia and are funded by unions. FREE are a party started by people who could see our rights being stripped away at a very rapid rate, good on em.

    • Mark says:

      09:49am | 18/03/10

      I reread the article to see if missed anything.

      I am not sure why this was printed or why it was necessary.

      All I got from it was there is a sculpture in Adelaide that looks like (/giggle) a set of nuts if you turn your head to the side. Ok that was slightly amusing to me 30+ years ago.

      Then, as a journo, you get people that tell you lies to promote one side of an argument over the counterpoint and that sometimes people get mad if you publish bad things about them. And politicians are self serving and try to get back into power by using (gasp) spin.

      Ok. So what? I just don’t get the need but whatever I was bored at work and it wasted 5 minutes of my life. Carry on I guess.

    • Dave Munro, F.R.E.E. Australia Candidate for Goyde says:

      12:07pm | 18/03/10

      Well informed comment Zeta. What is my link to being an outlaw motorcycle club member? Well, I do ride a motorcycle, as do around 10% of voters in South Australia. But wait, there is more, it is a Harley Davidson, does that make a difference. Do I have links to an outlaw motorcycle club if I serve a member in my business or if I frequent a business owned by an outlaw motorcycle club member? Does any of this really matter? Part of the stance of F.R.E.E. against the SOCCA laws here in South Australia is that anyone can associate with anyone they want to. Committing a crime is against the law, put the full force of the law into that, don’t assume that two people talking is a conspiracy in the making. Go to our website, http://www.freeaustralia.org and read my bio or perhaps drop by and have a chat you may get a surprise. We also have our Policy Directives, National Manifesto and a wealth of other information on the site. Yes there are even some motorcycle policies but none include being involved in organised crime as our beloved state leader and his mates would have you believe as they lurch ahead in their “social experiment” to quote a senior minister. Or have actually accused us and me of while hiding behind the security of parliamentary privilege. I have even offered to take a drug test at any time and any place, providing I can pick a few pollies to join me.

      Instead of believing everthing you read or see do a little bit of real research and make an informed judgement based on facts not spin. Better still, attend a meeting, you may be surprised at who our members are.

    • FREE Paul Kuhn says:

      02:12pm | 18/03/10

      As the Leader of the F.R.E.E. Australia Party I have been approached on a number of occasions by a major party. At first I though, how nice, they recognize the importance of the preferences they will end with at the end of a two party system..  But no, it was not to be so warm. It was about trying to get the FREE Australia Party to put their name on some dirty tactics so the major party had clean hands.  Needless to say I refused on behalf of FREE and told them in no uncertain terms we did not support that type of behavior.  Well, blow me down if they didn’t try for another hit at something else two weeks later..  With the membership and executive’s approval I would dearly like to publish all of this so people who are not involved in this dirty business can actually see what goes on behind the scenes.  If you think your beloved Labor Party, or Liberal Party or even another party of your favored choice is beyond reproach, my comment would have to be you have no idea. People who find this type of behavior acceptable need to re-examine their ethics and morals. I am not telling them what they should be but I am certain that our society in general would not find the antics acceptable by any means.  There are certain levels of ethics society accept, and it changes from generation to generation, from world changing event to the next and so forth, but it has been said by so many before us that politics is a dirty business and yes it is. There is absolutely no need for it, the people in voter land are not idiots and deserve credit and respect.  Unlike what I say about the political scene.

      Paul Kuhn
      Leader F.R.E.E. Australia Party
      candidate for the S.A. Legislative Council 2010

    • Pete says:

      02:25pm | 18/03/10

      well said Dave, good luck on saturday mate.

    • Pete says:

      02:24pm | 18/03/10

      Good on ya Paul, good luck Saturday mate.

    • Lofty says:

      03:55pm | 18/03/10

      Good luck to all the F.R.E.E candidates on Saturday. Someone has to have a go and stand up to the lies and deceit being spoon fed to the public recently.

    • Ben says:

      09:37pm | 18/03/10

      It’s a metaphor for the hold this election campaign has on the state, from general public opinion to Adelaide’s media outlets. Not that hard to understand; “it’s got us by the balls.” Oh and the Flugelman sculpture is in Rundle Mall, our city shopping strip; the “Mall’s Balls.”

 

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