Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is debating his Labor counterpart Robert McClelland as Crikey goes to press, but it’s impossible to stop the Coalition’s attack spaniel from chasing after cars. Yesterday he went yapping at the heels of the South Australian state transport minister, Pat Conlon.

Pat Conlon looks just like you’d imagine a Pat Conlon to look. He makes Laurie Ferguson look suave. But he has his dignity. And Pat saw red after weeks of Coalition election advertising singling him out over his running of Adelaide’s public transport and his old job as a trade union official. So he challenged Downer to a debate.

Neither side seems to have landed a killer punch. Indeed, Conlon was forced to accept responsibility and apologise for the series of recent problems that have plagued Adelaide’s trains and single tramline.

“Imagine running a country in the way the South Australian Minister for Transport and the State Government runs the transport system in SA,” Downer said.

Well, the Glenelg tram runs through the Labor marginals seats of Adelaide and Hindmarsh, but it really isn’t a matter for the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The Adelaide Advertiser gave the debate to Downer by “a short leg” (possibly wearing fishnet stocking), but Conlon seemed to sum everything up with rheotorical questions that would do the federal Labor leader proud.

“The real question in this debate is why is it happening at all?” he said. “’Why is a state minister being dragged into a federal campaign?”

“The answer is simple; it’s because the Liberals know they can’t beat Kevin Rudd in a fair fight.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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