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Politics

Apr 24, 2007

Alexander Downer, my part in his fishnets

Australian Story missed an important episode in the life of South Australia’s most senior federal parliamentarian last night. Perhaps, it's because they’re not Adelaide locals. Christian Kerr explains how a "guess the celebrity legs" competition lead to The Daily Telegraph featuring a full colour photo of the Foreign Minister pulling on fishnets.

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Australian Story missed an important episode in the life of South Australia’s most senior federal parliamentarian last night. Perhaps, it’s because they’re not locals.

Adelaide is a small place. Everyone knows everyone — or knows someone who knows the few people they don’t know. Which is why, back in the middle of 1996, I had ended up talking to someone from the promotions department of The Advertiser newspaper about a competition they were running.

I’d sorta noticed it — guess the celebrity legs. There they were. A few feet in fishnets. Most of them belonged to members of the Adelaide Crows. But, my new friend told me, one of them was attached to the neophyte Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer. Even better, they said, there were full-length shots of Alexander, foot on a coffee table, suit trousers rolled up, pulling on the stockings and grinning.

Back in those days, I worked as the press sec to one of Downer’s cabinet colleagues. A cabinet colleague, but a factional enemy. What was the most appropriate way to handle this news?

In the end, the media management was easy. I was always wandering the Gallery and always talking to journos. So I thought I’d drop some hints to my mate who was the ‘Tiser Canberra correspondent, an ambitious and enterprising young bloke always up for a laugh and a bit of sh-t-stirring named Dave Penberthy. The rest, as they say, is history.

Indeed, it was truly historic to have a full colour photo of the Foreign Minister pulling on fishnets taking up most of page three of one of the country’s best-selling and most influential newspapers, The Daily Telegraph, when the then president of the United States was visiting the country in 1996. Presumably, Bill Clinton laughed at the goose as much as the rest of us.

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