It is now crystal clear what Alexander Downer’s vision is for South Australia. Total uncertainty.
The former Foreign Minister must end his hair-twirling antics and declare categorically whether he intends to lead the South Australian Liberal Party. As things stand, the continuing game of footsies he is playing with the public and his party is starting to look like an exercise in vanity and self-indulgence.
The irony with all this is that Alexander Downer is the consummate party man and a deeply passionate South Australian. Yet his actions are damaging his party and not helping the state.
Welcome to another edition of I Call Bullshit. Today we’re looking at the leadership spill in SA, and asking: How does a leader limp on, her team in tatters behind her?
State Liberal Isobel Redmond has clung on by a fingernail, after she managed to shake off the clawing hand of challenger Martin Hamilton-Smith (yes, the Libs do double-barrels in SA).
In a twisted plot worthy of the Labor Party, Mr Hamilton-Smith is himself a former leader of the party. He was toppled when he fell for “dodgy documents” that he thought showed the Labor Party soliciting donations from the Church of Scientology.
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Tasmania. Yes, it’s real. It’s “rat shit” and it should be merged into a super-state comprising of the island state, Victoria and South Australia.
That’s what former VIC premier Jeff Kennett told an audience of Tassie locals at a debate last night. Read about it on news.com.au. The ABC’s AM program reported that his rat droppings rhetoric and state-abolishing proposal were well-received by the audience.
Probably because Kennett delivered some hardarse common sense about what Van Diemen’s land needs to do to get booming. And also because there are a number of things for Tassie residents to be glum about, on the face of it at least. Like the tumours on the faces of the Tassie devil which are exterminating the island’s mascot.
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This is a story about instinct and passion, but also about tedious, solitary, methodical research. It is a great scientific adventure that in its own humble way mirrors the story of Watson and Crick, who unravelled the mystery of existence with their studies into DNA.
The difference, of course, is that there were two of them, but there is only one Ray Beckwith. And while Watson and Crick confined themselves to the serious business of the building blocks of life, Ray’s mind was occupied with something which makes life so darned entertaining. Wine.
Really good wine. What makes it tick, what makes it live on inside the bottle and get better with age. What makes a cheap bottle consistently good, a pricey bottle a coveted international icon.
If South Australia had just arrived in the world, red and wrinkled and mewling, what would we call it?
Something to reflect our pride – FreeSettlerVille, perhaps? Or our aspirations – New Melbourne might suit. Or something that highlights the diverse range of South Australian attributes, from bogan frenzies to Old Adelaide Family pretensions – Taylyah Ashton-Smith, maybe?
Back in 1999 advertising ‘guru’ John Singleton declared the name South Australia “boring” and suggested ‘Bradman’ instead. It may be that having six or seven wives gives one a rather low threshold for boredom – although his enthusiasm for cricket shows he is not entirely averse to the concept.
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Camped on Kangaroo Island once. Great place. Swam naked on a pristine beach and ate the best damn King George Whiting ‘n’ chips you’ve ever had in your life.
Update: last night on the ABC’s Media Watch it was revealed that celebrities were paid $750 to Tweet positively about KI. This article was posted hours before that, purely by coincidence, and we weren’t paid a cent. So there.
Saw rare glossy black cockatoos, koalas, seals, you name it. The seals are hilarious. They waddle up the dunes on the island’s wild southern shore, then roll back down like kids on a grassy slope. Good times.
For me, KI was a wild, sand-between-your-toes, hardly-spend-a-cent kind of holiday. That’s why I was initially bewildered by the artsy ads aimed at an upmarket audience, which are currently in their final week of an eight week eastern states TV run. Well, turns out SA Tourism know exactly what they’re doing.
After a wetter than average year in the Murray-Darling Basin many people seem to think the problems of Australia’s most important river system are solved. They’re not.
Rain and floods have returned life to many parts of the river system, but if they are to provide more than a temporary boost before the next drought hits, our federal Parliament will need to sign off on a strong Murray-Darling Basin Plan this year.
When I say a strong plan, I mean a plan that results in a river not poisoned by salt, that flows, that is alive. Anything less threatens the future of the river and regional communities, not to mention Adelaide’s drinking water. For too long we’ve been taking too much water out of the river – much of it for irrigated agriculture – for the system to remain healthy.
When the Snowtown murder trial concluded in 2003 a prominent criminologist scandalised the good people of Adelaide by saying there was nothing surprising or remarkable about the case.
New Yorker Allan Perry, a lecturer in criminal law at the University of Adelaide, blamed what he called a subculture of degeneracy in the city’s most depressed and dysfunctional suburbs, defined by inter-generational welfare dependency, the daily abuse of alcohol and drugs, shocking levels of child abuse, child neglect and family violence.
Dr Perry said the only thing which shocked him about Snowtown was that people were shocked by it. And he really cut loose in his description of my hometown, sending talkback and the letters pages into meltdown, and prompting the then Attorney General Mick Atkinson to tell him to move back to Brooklyn.
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I am not sure who the South Australian Police Commissioner is. Is it still Mal Hyde? Or did we get a new one? You wouldn’t know. Whoever he is, he is, as they say, a quiet man who keeps to himself.
In fairness, it’s not as if the South Australian Police Service has been doing nothing. Earlier this year, via its Twitter site, SAPOL courageously announced that it was launching an all-out blitz on one of the gravest threats to civil society - jaywalking. In a joint venture with Channel Nine, cameras were mounted at some of Adelaide’s most lethal intersections, places such as Beehive Corner which are a magnet for these dangerous criminals, with the offenders being nabbed and shamed as they went about their despicable enterprise.
We can all sleep safer as a result.
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Finally, we have a government willing to stand up for small business in the face of hysterical opposition from the big end of town and their legal advisers.
Last week the South Australian Labor Government successfully got its small business commissioner reforms through the Parliament. Those reforms had been subject to a frenzied attack by elements of the big end of town and their legal advisers. Despite such a self-interested and panic-stricken campaign the reforms secured the numbers in the South Australian Upper House.
Like most Upper Houses in Australia, the SA Legislative Council is a place where the Government lacks the numbers and, accordingly, needs to convince the minor parties and independents of the merits of all government initiatives.
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Nothing on this earth would entice me to have a baby at home.
Call me old fashioned, but I’m all for the protective womb of expert physicians and latest technology in a crisp white hospital environment. The risks are simply too great; the act of childbirth too unpredictable; the potential loss too devastating to contemplate.
And tragically, in South Australia we’re hearing all too much about risk becoming reality.
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A few weeks after he was clouted in the face with a rolled-up wine magazine, and on the same day that Channel Seven ran salacious allegations about his relationship with former parliamentary waitress Michelle Chantelois, Mike Rann wrote an article about the sex lives of pandas for our opinion website The Punch.
The timing was somewhat awkward. Rann, an early adopter of Twitter and one of the first politicians to use blogging as a new and direct way of talking to the voters, was spruiking the arrival of breeding pandas Wang Wang and Funi at the Adelaide Zoo. He explained how male pandas were sexually lethargic, difficult to arouse, and how zoos overseas had resorted to showing them films of mating pandas in a bid to fire them up.
Our website, driven as it is by robust and comic interaction with the readers, decided it would be best to hold the column for a while. Not out of any desire to protect the Premier – whatever scandals he was involved in were his problem, not ours – but because the job of keeping the reader’s comments within the boundaries of taste and libel would be impossible.
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For SA Premier Mike Rann, “school” ends today, and from 9am tomorrow, he is on holidays. This is earlier than he wanted, but the right-wing “shoppies” union gave him no choice. No wonder he has spent much of his last days railing against factional influence in the Labor party.
Mr Rann has had a long innings since taking over the Premier’s job on March 5, 2002. Not a record, by a long way. The Liberal and Country League government of Tom Playford set the record, from 1938 to 1965, a longevity which will probably never be beaten. Of course, he did have a heavily biased election system in his favour.
That long Liberal reign was followed by a Labor domination. Of the 46 years from 1965 until now, Labor has been in office for 35. And that period has been dominated by three Labor Premiers: Don Dunstan (1967 – 79), John Bannon (1982 – 92), and Mike Rann (2002 – 11). In those data is one reason for the Rann angst at being pushed out of the job early – he could have achieved the record of being the longest serving Labor Premier.
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In his personal review of his legacy to South Australia, Premier Rann had two main regrets. The first was his inability to abolish the Legislative Council.
This has been a key aim of the Labor party for over a hundred years.
The passion flows from the fact that Labor has never won a majority of the seats in the Council.
It’s widely thought that either Marie Antoinette or Marie Therese of the French aristocracy uttered the fateful words ‘let them eat cake’ when told that the peasants were starving. Regardless of who said the words and whether they were said in arrogance, ignorance (or even at all) the PR damage was done.
We all know what happened next.
Last week SA Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Grace Portelesi, had her very own Marie-moment by vacillating on the question of whether Anangu people living on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands in the far north west of South Australia were going hungry.
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South Australia has not so much two premiers now but none.
The outgoing Mike Rann has played his assassins off a break revealing them to be weak, disorganised, and without the class necessary to lead.
Worse, the sheer hollowness of the personnel change at the top has been exposed for what it is - merely a marketing ploy to repackage a tired government. Nothing in the way of substantial vision or a different approach has been put forward.
The cocked-up coup to oust SA Premier Mike Rann (read all about it here) has left a stain on the Labor Party carpet, and the various men responsible are either staring at it in disbelief or pretending it doesn’t exist.
The Premier himself has flown to India, and seems quite happy to let it fester.
A clean kill is the Holy Grail, the perpetual motion machine, the leprechaun’s gold for Labor party operatives. You would think the Gillard/Rudd experience would highlight just how difficult that is, but the factional warlords were optimistic enough to give it another go with Mr Rann.
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We South Australians have some harebrained ideas sometimes. This week, Adelaide City Council decided to push ahead with multi-million dollar plans to revitalise the dreary and deserted Victoria Square into a major CBD hub.
That’s despite the fact that the State Government is already pushing ahead with its own multi-BILLION dollar plans to revitalise the nearby Riverbank precinct as the new city’s heart and soul.
After lengthy debate on Tuesday night, Adelaide City Council voted to invest $11.5 million on Victoria Square – despite the fact that there’s no commitment from the state or federal government to cough up the $100 million needed to complete the project.
This was a different budget. The SA Budget papers were coated in soft blue hues and carried a picture of a nurse and a baby. Even before state Treasurer Jack Snelling opened his mouth yesterday to tell assembled reporters all about his first budget the message was clear. This is a different Treasurer and a new era.
The hard edges that so oftened characterised his predecessor Kevin Foley were to be buffed smooth by Snelling. Foley used to love Budget day. He would relish the battle with the media, jumping in boots and all, to defend, sell and promote his budget.
That was all very well in the days when the Rann Government was flying high. When elections were being won and the cash was rolling in from Canberra there was plenty to shout loud about.
What is wrong with Adelaide? We call ourselves the ‘Festival State’, but far from being overrun by action we appear to be operating as a surrogate nursery for the rest of the country’s sporting events; they are born here, we suckle them, and then they unceremoniously move elsewhere. And they never call!
We lost another of our great sporting events last week, The Rugby Sevens carnival. I was lucky enough to attend two weeks ago for the carnival’s last Adelaide showcase with my son, but had I realised it was a rugby funeral I would have worn black.
The Deputy Treasurer and Minister for Tourism John Rau was unconcerned, however, by the loss of yet another great sporting event. He shrugged his shoulders and said ‘the fact is we can’t win everything’. Well, yes Minister, but why are we losing so many?
For a blubbering, lonely, unlucky-in-love, toxic politician with a ‘hit-me’ sign on his back, SA Police Minister and former Treasurer Kevin Foley sure has risen in my estimations.
I can’t believe he’s still standing. I can’t believe he hasn’t packed his bags (no, not just for his latest overseas jaunt) and signed a lucrative deal for his own guts-spilling talkback radio show.
I can’t believe he only slightly teared up at his press conference last Monday. I’d have been pulling my hair out, frothing at the mouth and howling with sheer exasperation. Not least because of the double standards that have applied to him and Premier Mike Rann in the past 18 months.
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There’s nothing like a good euthanasia debate to make you wary of doctors.
Sure, they come across all innocent with their gentle bedside manners, illegible handwriting and attempts to cure what ails us. If euthanasia opponents are to be believed, though, they’re actually dastardly devils with a desire for death.
Give ’em an inch when it comes to helping us die and they’ll take a mile – not to mention solicitations from family members who want to knock us off and take our riches, too.
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A debate about GST distribution in Australia is a debate about our future as a federation. Some states – notably Western Australia – contribute far more than their fair share to the national purse. Others – notably South Australia and Tasmania – take far more than they give.
For example, WA gets about 68c in the dollar back from the Federal Government, while SA gets around $1.30.
It’s obvious that horizontal fiscal equalisation is unfair, and that the GST has moved beyond an Australian ‘fair go’ and more towards an inequitable redistribution of wealth.
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Can a football team change a town? Can sport become a symbol of renewal, and give a community a sense of optimism and purpose?
Elitists who regard sport as a mindless pursuit would scoff at the suggestion. They would probably hold that the only change a football team can make to a town is to pollute people’s brains with useless trivia, distract them from pressing social realities, and eat into valuable self-improvement and family time.
The 20-year history of the Adelaide Crows – sorry, the mighty Adelaide Crows – provides a compelling counterpoint to those who would dismiss sport as frivolous or meaningless.
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What do you call a fishing town with no fishing? Dead.
So you’d hope the South Australian government is genuine about wanting frank feedback on its idea of introducing 140 no-fishing zones along our coastline next year.
Some of my most enduring childhood memories involve tinnie boats and tangled lines. A day in the dinghy wasn’t just fun, it was an exercise in patience and perseverance, a bonding experience of family against fish, and on good days it was a few free meals for the freezer.
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Put the shopping basket down and step AWAY from the dairy aisle. Admit it. You were about to buy the $1 milk weren’t you?
Why? Well, as the insidious Coles jingo bleats: “Because We All Buy Milk!” You were about to save a whole 75 cents a litre.
But you were also falling for one of the dirtiest tricks in supermarket history – a trick which is possibly threatening the viability of a major Australian industry.
It all started, ironically, on Australia Day, but let’s look at the aftermath.
What was it that we women set out to achieve so long ago I can hardly remember the detail? Did we want to take over the world? Did we want to make men subservient to our will? Were we angry enough to march in the streets for our right for equality? No to the first two and yes, to the last.
I remember the US author Deidre Bair telling us at a Writers’ Week that what we wanted was equality, we all had men as friends, lovers, husbands, sons, brothers, we just wanted to have the same opportunities as they had and that bitterness had no place in a brave new world.
Well, for some it had, those most mistreated in some cultures, but for most of us women living in affluent Australia, it didn’t seem too hard to expect that we could easily settle for equality of opportunity. So, why now, in another century ,is it still so hard to achieve that equality?
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Across Australia today a familiar push and shove is taking place as cyclists vie for space with the ever increasing numbers of cars on our roads. It is a pattern that is repeated throughout our towns and cities; a symptom of our car loving culture and sense of road entitlement from drivers and cyclists alike.
Drivers resent the packs of Lycra warriors when they take up entire lanes and invent their own road rules, and cyclists understandably fear cars which are often wielded like 100 tonnes of road clearing debris.
Neither party is blameless in this dangerous game of chicken, but it is up to state governments to appreciate the differing needs of commuters and adjust their infrastructure accordingly.
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Within weeks, South Australians will have a clear idea of who will replace Premier Mike Rann before the 2014 state election.
It’s a race between Employment Minister Jack Snelling and Attorney-General John Rau - both ministerial cleanskins with with less than a year’s experience in the ministry.
Both men are jostling to take over the role of Deputy Premier which the incumbent Kevin Foley is set to step down from when he returns in three weeks from a defence industry trip to the US.
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Today the parliament of South Australia is due to debate a bill to legalise medically assisted suicide in that state.
Should the bill pass, Australia’s “festival state” will assume the dubious and rather un-festive honour of being the first to make doctor assisted suicide available to its residents.
Unlike the Northern Territory’s 1996 legislation, the federal government would be unable to overturn the South Australian Bill should it pass into law.
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Adelaide. It’s orderly, clean and quiet.
Maybe too quiet.
Because somewhere behind the odd mix of plummy accents and mullet haircuts, some seriously nasty stuff happens.
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Many Australians will be welcoming yesterday’s High Court decision in the case of The State of South Australia v. Totani & Another HCA 39 (2010). This is the second legal defeat of this unjust and draconian piece of South Australian legislation.
While most Australians will see the decision as a big win for the bike clubs against the money-wasting, selfish and bloody-minded South Australian Labor Government, from the United Motorcycle Council NSW stand-point it‘s just one more step in the right direction. We have to continue to fight until these hastily enacted and unworkable laws are defeated in our state as well.
There’s no doubt though that we are off to a very promising start. Mike Rann backed himself in the South Australian Supreme Court and lost, then with significant egg on his face took his war to the High Court using taxpayer funds only to lose there as well.
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As Labor braces itself for a voter backlash in Kevin Rudd’s home state of Queensland and the dysfunctional ALP-run fiefdom of New South Wales, there are two South Australian seats which will attract close and nervous attention from both sides of politics on election night.
It’s been a long time since South Australia has been anything other than a brief whistlestop during the national election campaign, with the major parties doing little more than upholding their obligations by paying just one visit to Adelaide, more out of politeness than anything else.
This week showed how vital SA will be on election night. I returned home this week for a flying 24-hour visit and spent half the day at the ritzy Burnside Village and the other half at the much earthier Parkholme shops, just down the road from where I grew up, talking to voters about their assessment of Gillard and Abbott.
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It’s not often in politics that a single sentence can guarantee you victory in four vital seats which have historically been among the most volatile and closely-fought in the Federal Parliament.
But Adelaide’s own ex-pat Melburnian Prime Minister Julia Gillard may have done just that with one inspired and clearly-enunciated line in her debut press conference as Labor Party Leader.
“I grew up in the great state of South Australia…”
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VOTERS are a fickle lot. The extent of their capriciousness can be told with the tale of two governments: Mike Rann’s generally competent Labor administration in South Australia, which is facing possible defeat today, and that crazy sideshow act in NSW now under the care of a new ringleader, a likable American-born woman called Kristina Keneally, who is harnessing public sympathy if not pity as the basis for an improbable political comeback.
Rann has presided over a state where job growth has surged and investment has boomed. The one-time basket case of the national economy, which younger people (like me) were keen to flee in the backdraft of the State Bank collapse 15 years ago, now finds itself in the once-unimaginable position of having the lowest level of unemployment in Australia.
It’s been pilloried in song by Paul Kelly as a stuffy and boring place where nothing interesting ever happens, but if someone made a film about the past five months of politics in the City of Churches it would probably attract an MA rating.
Economically and culturally South Australia is humming along. Just 10 years ago, in the backdraft of the $3.15 billion collapse of the State Bank on Labor’s watch, it was an economic basketcase which young people were queuing to leave.
Last Thursday, on the day I started this piece by sitting down with Premier Mike Rann, the national employment figures confirmed that SA has yet again registered the lowest jobless rate in the land.
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UPDATE 11.55pm: SA Attorney General Mick Atkinson has backed down and will repeal the ban on anonymous internet comments.
It is self-evident that websites can be used by imposters and small-time fraudsters to create a false reflection of public opinion on political issues. But there’s no excuse for the South Australian government’s breathtaking censorship tactics ahead of the state election.
Sure, anonymous comments are a problem. There’s a guy posting on the Punch lately who has assumed 21 different identities in four days. He first came on the radar at the weekend after he left a tell-tail trail by posting two similar comments in quick succession. He could have been immediately banned but was given rope.
On a single thread he posted under the names Ronnel, James, Wendy, Rachel, Brad, Jan, Bill, Roger, Janette, Francis, Annie, Randall, Brendon, Judith and Connie. Though I’ve never met him I have an unusually clear picture of what he looks like, which is as follows.
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Welcome to Monday @ The Punch
South Australia was founded today in 1836.
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The people shuffled in, pair by pair. They clutched hands, and their eyes shimmered with excitement.
As they got within sight of the object of their worship, cameras snapped frantically. One woman, in the middle of a crowd of people on a sunny summer day, started crying. Overwhelmed and transported, she smiled through her tears.
Mary MacKillop’s tomb? Nup, panda enclosure. Adelaide Zoo.
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Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
@paulwiggins noted. To Buzzfeed!
Interesting trends here in cash in circulation - huge spike after GFC with mattress stuffing; finally slowing http://t.co/MSl3cG165t
@paulwiggins It's interesting - I think sentimentalism was hugely powerful for both leadership & staff. Or management just afraid to change
Crane operator hits tree, knocks out power to a third of Vietnam http://t.co/MLOkcmb262
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