This morning’s Adelaide Advertiser carries a front page photo of a smiling Premier Mike Rann, seated while his loving life drapes her arms around him. The photo is taken is a picture perfect soft garden setting. The lovely Mr Rann and his wife Sasha in their idyllic garden, have been wronged. “Creepy and offensive letters were sent to the Premier’s wife Sasha, her elderly parents and bridesmaid as they prepared for the couple’s 2006 wedding,” the story tells us.

The idea of this breathtaking act of media manipulation is to take the heat off Mr Rann over a messy story involving the Premier, a man who allegedly attacked him last week at a function and the man’s former wife.

The story, as far as one can glean, is that Rick Phillips used to be married to a woman named Michelle Chantelois with whom Rann had contact with over an 18 month period in 2004 and 2005. Phillips allegedly assaulted Rann last Thursday at a function in Adelaide and is claiming that Rann’s contact with his ex-wife was of such a duration and frequency that it put strain on his marriage. Whether these allegations have any veracity is yet to be demonstrated of course.

Since this story broke Rann and his minders, knowing the potential political damage it could do in the lead up to next year’s state election if not handled carefully, have been orchestrating a strategy which seeks to paint Rann as the mother of all victims. The South Australian public should be sympathizing with their hard working, morally righteous leader who is being crucified by evil forces.

Rann is peddling this line himself. Take these quotes from this morning’s Australian:

“It has been an interesting few months,” Mr Rann said. “When you think about it, I’ve had a series of death threats, I’ve had death threats against my children. I’ve had hate mail, I’ve had stalkers. I have also had forged emails and fake documents and forged receipts. I have threats of violence and acts of violence. But none of this is going to deter me or distract me from doing my job.”

And his loyal ministers (or are they disciples?) are also sanctifying Rann and naturally undermining Phillip’s legal rights in the process.

“The Premier has been the victim of a vicious and violent attack,” Treasurer Kevin Foley said yesterday. How about we let the court decide the facts of what happened Kevin?

Foley’s colleague Pat Conlon, the State’s Transport Minister, thinks the media should leave Rann alone. “There’s been some appalling reporting, appalling reporting, absolutely appalling,” he said. Presumably what Conlon means is that the media questioning Rann’s high powered spin is appalling.

The Advertiser it seems has fallen for Rann’s charm. By placing on their front page a warm and innocent photograph of the Premier and his wife on their front page, they’ve given the government an almighty free kick. How could anyone harm such a loving couple who take such good care of their garden?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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