The Mike Rann sex scandal: is it a sacking offence?
Update 1.20pm AEDT: Rann is due to speak to the media at 2.30pm AEDT today. Passing waiting journalists heading into a cabinet meeting earlier he refused to deny outright having sex with Chantelois.
Today could decide the career of Australia’s most popular premier and Punch contributor Mike Rann. “It is disappointing and distressing that a friendship I had with Michelle Chantelois more than four years ago has become the subject of such sensationalised publicity,” the SA Premier said this morning. There’s more from his statement over the jump.
The publicity, which you may have caught, was the airing last night of a detailed account of an affair that former parliamentary barmaid Michelle Chantelois claims to have had with Rann. She claims it involved sex on the premier’s desk and clandestine trips to a golf course for romps in the dark. The trouble for Rann is that he has been insisting there was never any sex.
As one senior Labor figure said: “At the end of the day, she has either made the whole thing up or he’s lying.”
And it looks like the voting public is starting to disbelieve him. Last night in a poll on AdelaideNow a sizeable majority - 57 per cent - said they thought he should quit.
Rann was single at the time of the alleged affair. His wife Sasha has defended him, even speaking to reporters by telephone over the weekend to say she believed his version of events. Senior Labor figures have said Rann has a plausible explanation for everything that went on.
The fact that Chantelois was paid a sum by Channel 7 - believed to be in excess of $100,000 - for her story gave a strong imperative to make her account as detailed as possible. She delivered an account of a sexual relationship between two adults.
The problem is that he is a political leader who has campaigned on family values, but she was married at the time of the affair and if it did happen it gives the impression that he used the power of his office to seduce her. On top of it all, he denies it ever happened.
“The strange thing about it is he was a single bloke at the time,” a senior party figure told The Australian, “and while she was married, it would not have been that big a deal for him to have just come out from day one and said, ‘Yes, I had an affair with this lady and I’m sorry’.”
Some more from Mike Rann’s statement below:
I can only imagine that Ms Chantelois has faced some serious family difficulties in the past four years and if our past friendship has contributed to those difficulties then I deeply regret that.
But I reject any suggestion that I preyed on her vulnerabilities or exploited her in any way whatsoever.
I have never disputed that Ms Chantelois and I were friends. Indeed during a court case involving her husband’s business, her decision to go to university and with personal problems she had, I provided her with advice and support.
I repeat that my friendship with Ms Chantelois, who I haven’t seen since 2005, occurred prior to my engagement to my wife, Sasha, who was fully aware of the friendship at the time.
Last night’s program was malicious in nature and concerned matters that had nothing to do with my role as Premier.
Sex scandals usually destroy politicians not because of the sex but because of the lies. This is a story that has reopened the debate about the division between the public and private lives of politicians: even if he did have sex with a married barmaid, what does that have to do with his ability to run the state?
We’ll be moderating comments very closely on this for legal reasons, but we want to hear what you think.
Over to you.
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