With the inimitable Lindsay Tanner about to rule on the merits of Crikey‘s Sideshow Alley initiative, we thought it was time to bring out the big guns and shine a light on three instances of pollie and media egregiousness over the week that was.

In the red corner (red being the colour of Mike Rann’s cheek after he was famously smacked around with a copy of Winestate magazine), is the SA Premier’s ridiculous press conference prevarication over a handover date to Jay Weatherill, who had brutally knifed him on the instructions of 30-year-old SA shop assistants chief Peter Malinauskas a week earlier.

Rann began with some feigned shock that such a large number of journos had turned up to hear about his “recent trade mission to India” — perhaps a nod to his Twitter updates, which studiously avoided any reference to the leadership debacle while he’d been ensconsed in Bombay.

While there was no direct reference to the Christopher Lambert epic Highlander, Monday’s Oakeshott-style speech dragged on for eight minutes and 45 seconds before Rann finally got to the date — October 20 — on which he would step back from the legislative assembly spotlight.

But in true Rann style he still managed to give commentators and journalists a whack for “a torrent of speculation”, following the leaking “within minutes” of details of the showdown with Malinauskas and treasurer Jack Snelling.

With his assassin snuggling up by his right shoulder, Rann finally invited Weatherill to the lectern. “Jay, congratulations, you’ll be a good premier,” he muttered.

The rest of the week was a picnic for the SA media, with savvy reporters tracking the duo to a school opening to ratchet up the awkwardness as “red-faced” media adviser Lachlan Parker looked on.


In the pink corner, we have the heart-warming display of affection gifted to Penny Wong and long-time partner Sophie Allouache who are expecting an IVF baby. All the major metro dailies splashed with an old photo of the proud pair — a groundbreaking and heart-warming occasion for same-sex couples everywhere.

But don’t think the media would let Wong off the hook. In a BREAKING NEWS update with the amazing headline “Wong baby not right — Reverend Fred Nile”, News.com.au (via AAP) decided to inject some controversy, inviting the NSW upper house member to offer his considered take that won’t be repeated here.

It wasn’t just AAP — The Age , The Daily Telegraph and The Canberra Times all embarked on a fun-filled family values journey down the Nile.

One journo who avoided the obvious temptation to consult the religious right? The Sydney Morning Herald‘s upstanding Phil Coorey who actually got some good quotes from Wong herself for his front page lead.


And finally, in the dark blue corner beloved by the NSW branch of the Electrical Trades Union, comes The Daily Telegraph‘s Joe Hildebrand, who penned a story on Monday claiming Victorian ETU chief Dean Mighell “could” be asked to return a $200,000 donation to the Greens because he’d featured in a recent edition of the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia’s in-house magazine.

The problem being that Mighell had been a member of the SSAA for years, as Crikey and scores of other outlets had repeatedly highlighted. Of course, the donation was made not by Mighell, but by the ETU state council — a point immediately noted by Greens MP Adam Bandt when Crikey contacted him for comment. Bandt denied the money would have to be returned, killing the story. (Hildebrand (or his chief of staff) apparently contacted Bandt but there was some phone tag going on).

Another crucial missing element missing was that Hildebrand seemed to be riffing off dirt sheets put about by National ETU chief Peter Tighe, who Mighell is challenging in the current ETU elections that kicked off on the same day the story ran.

Still, the popular News Limited satirist couldn’t be dissuaded. Today, on page 30 of the Tele (not online), he saddled up again, running Tighe’s lines on a mischievous Mighell plan that could strip “hundreds of thousands” of workers of their union membership and expose them to the sack or persecution. The source? “Legal documents”.

And again, just like Monday’s story, Mighell wasn’t quoted.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey