I interrupt this trip to London to bring you news from home … It was understandable when South Australian Premier Mike Rann interrupted his tour of UK defence establishments to have a Guinness in Ireland with cyclist Lance Armstrong.

Getting the seve- time Tour de France winner back to Adelaide to lead his own new Radio Shack team in a race around the roads of South Australia is by way of being something of a public relations coup. If a small part of the Armstrong price was to leave the company of the merchants of military death to join his friend Lance, perhaps the world’s most famous cancer survivor, in addressing Dublin’s Livestrong Global Cancer Summit then so be it.

Being a Premier concerned with finding cancer treatments fits in every bit as well with an electoral image as does a man racing around the world to drum up defence jobs and next year’s state election will be within a couple of months of the Tour Down Under ending.

What was a surprise, however, was the way that the next day, when back in London under the guidance of his hosts BAE Systems Australia, Premier Rann again diverted from his study of solutions to current cyber security threats to have a few words to say about another local issue — the introduction of a register of lobbyists.

Without any explanation of why the decision was made or why its announcement could not wait until he returned home, the news was broken in that most modern of ways via Twitter.

The Adelaide Advertiser led with the story on Saturday: New code reins in lobbyists.

“The SA State Government will restrict the activities of political lobbyists to guard against corruption, cronyism and conflicts of interest” — is how the paper put it without giving anything by way of background as to why the need but the story did point out that the South Australian laws would not be going as far as those promised recently by Queensland Premier Anna Bligh.

The reason for the timing of this intervention from afar by the travelling Premier became clearer this morning when The Advertiser again led with a story about lobbying — this time the tale of Labor lobbyist’s wife gets government job telling how a prominent Labor lobbyist’s wife has been appointed to the State Government’s top planning body, despite having limited development experience.

The Advertiser explains that Davina Quirke was appointed to the Development Policy Advisory Committee, the body responsible for advising the minister on planning changes, while her lobbyist husband, former State and Senate Labor member John Quirke has developer Makris Corporation as a client:

It all looks just a little too cosy and it certainly is not the kind of yarn that a Premier would like to have up and running as he gets in to full election campaigning mode.

The press gallery herd has stampeded. Julia Gillard is no longer an untouchable. On Saturday the lads and lasses of the press gallery declared an end to her protected status. It was if there had been a meeting of the columnist’s collective to reach an agreed position.

Julia Gillard — from Teflon coating to feet of clay? wrote Laurie Oakes in the Brisbane Courier Mail and the other News Limited tabloids. This long time herd leader found that suddenly the Deputy Prime Minister’s competence is being questioned. Two other veterans in Saturday columns were on the same track if not as pointed in their criticism.

Stimulus an item of faith Paul Kelly called it in The Australian, writing that the Rudd government’s $42 billion fiscal stimulus has now been exposed for its inefficiencies, cost overruns and lack of “value-for-money” — largely failings of the Gillard education package.

The headline Come election day, Rudd and co may get a lesson in the folly of self-aggrandisement above Tony Wright’s commentary in the Melbourne Age also spared the Education Minister but the questions about how clever it is to insist that schools receiving federal funds from the stimulus package put up signs saying so finally rest with her.

On Sunday in the Sydney Sun Herald, Michelle Grattan’s headline similarly gave the Prime Minister the spotlight — Rudd’s largesse a sign of the times for all to see — but the person in the Government who “has turned its stimulus building program into a long and shameless taxpayer-funded electoral advertisement” is clearly Ms Gillard. The story School signs break election law, says Chris Pyne — Education Minister Julia Gillard faces fresh problems with claims the signage requirements attached to her schools stimulus scheme could breach state electoral laws in this morning’s The Australian left absolutely no doubt about who is to blame.

Don’t provoke a cranky poodle was Malcolm Farr’s advice in the Sydney Daily Telegraph on a number of policy incidents which have left Gillard, who also is Minister for Education, Employment, Workplace Relations, a touch embarrassed. To round out the weekend’s commentary for the Minister there was Glenn Milne’s Poodle’s bite may yet wound the government.

Peter Fray

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