There is a demarcation line in the politics-media relationship that divides private and public life. For context, think of the border between North and South Korea, a heavily guarded and contested line that elicits bad blood on both sides depending on your perspective.

Which brings us to the murky scenario of the Premier, his “female friend”, his female friend’s estranged husband and the Premier’s bruised face. Oh, and the media.

The case for arguing that South Australian premier Mike Rann should not be scrutinised over this matter from every angle — including and maybe especially the personal angle — is, unfortunately for Mr Rann and his family, quite wrong. This matter became a matter of public interest at a fundraiser at Adelaide’s National Wine Centre last Thursday night when Mike Rann was bashed in public by an assailant with a magazine.

Since then, Adelaide’s small but heated corridors of power have been in overdrive with innuendo, speculation and tawdry rumours.

Today, The Australian is reporting that Rann had contact with his alleged assailant’s wife “up to 10 times a day and up to 30 times in one particular week before her marriage broke up” and that her estranged husband claims “that Mr Rann’s 15-month friendship with his estranged wife, Michelle Chantelois, 39, broke up their marriage”.

Meanwhile Rann is using the front page of The Advertiser to reveal that “both my children have been threatened with violence and received death threats … malicious hate mail has been sent out to thousands of households (about me and) our house has been vandalised”, and to reassure bemused voters that “neither threats of violence, nor acts of violence, will distract me or deter me from doing my job as Premier of South Australia.”

The demilitarised zone between Rann, the media and the voters has been well and truly breached. The Premier has a responsibility to find a way to reveal the facts, notwithstanding that his assailant has been charged with assault and may not appear in court until after the state election next March. This is now a public, not a private, matter. And quite possibly a matter of the integrity and character of the Premier, not inconsequential issues less than six months out from a state election.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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