South Australians are a conservative lot. They still frown on what they call “the convict states”. And they still aren’t happy that the Adelaide Advertiser went tabloid several years ago.

The Advertiser hasn’t been entirely happy with it, either. It’s a monopoly paper, but in just the same way that South Australians still think their state is something other than an economic, social and cultural irrelevance, The Advertiser still likes to pretend it’s a journal of record. Until today.

The Advertiser has been backing South Australia’s bid against Victoria to build the Navy’s new $6 billion air warfare destroyers. It’s a nice fit. The state runs on welfare – business and other – and The Tiser decided to make itself more grotesque in an attempt to get attention.

“SURRENDER”, the front page today screams. “We take SA’s destroyer case behind enemy lines and the Vics just do not add up”. The yarn takes up all of page one, and significant space is devoted to – wait for it – a photo of three of its journos, in camo, helmets and “Brack Off!” (geddit?!) t-shirts landing at the naval dockyards at Williamstown in Victoria on a camouflaged military vehicle covered in South Australian flags and Tiser logos. The story spills on to pages four and five, then cheer pieces by the premier and opposition leader occupy a full op-ed page.

It’s nice that The Advertiser has finally made up its mind that it’s going to be shamelessly tabloid. Its shabby-genteel act has been wearing thin. But editor Mel Mansell clearly isn’t an Alistair Maclean fan. Remember how there was a double agent in the squad in Where Eagles Dare? Three of its journos invaded Victoria. Just like the commandoes in Maclean’s book, one of them seems to have infiltrated Spring Street. On page five, there’s a shot of him presenting a “Brack Off’ t-shirt to Steve Bracks himself. But where do his loyalties lie? The journo in question is none other than that former member of the Victorian parliament, Craig Bildstien.

Peter Fray

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