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Introduction

Introducing a new multi-part feature series by Guy Rundle on the South Australian election, which may well deliver Australia its most politically complex lower house in more than a century.

Part One

Xenophon stumbles, but could still blow the dam wide open in SA

“Dam Buster! Explorer says new mine could be state’s biggest … ” screams the front of The Advertiser, available free everywhere, piles of ’em lying around airports, hotels, coffee shops, snowdrifts of ’em. Rupert Murdoch’s first paper is now on the way to being a freesheet.

Some copper miner is complaining that he can’t get clearance for his billion-dollar project from the local Aboriginal Affairs Minister. This is front-page news, five days before an election that may well deliver Australia its most politically complex lower house in more than a century.

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Part Two

Being Nick Xenophon

Nick Xenophon, alone, jumps around a car too small for him — a red toy Fiat, his face plastered over it, a clown car — into a sandwich board too large for him.

We’re at Campbelltown Mall — the IGA and a strip of cheap and cheerful shops, an alterations and repairers, a cake shop, a “snack bar”, a newso. Through the window of the dry cleaners a mirror winks at us, piercing Adelaide sun.

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Part Three

The thorn in Labor's side

Frances Bedford, a small black-haired woman in striking yellow and red power pantsuit, jumps from her car in Modbury Hospital carpark, and grabs a plastic basin half her size, holding press releases on clipboards.

“I’ll take it,” I say.

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Part Four

Wakefield in fright

“Gluttony” was jumping when we got there, in the dark. It’s a curated part of the larger festival, with an emphasis on the outre and bizarre. On the gardens outside Adelaide’s main grid, beneath the fairy lights, two dozen little venues, bars, had festival-goers — ‘burban punters, carney folk, hipsters — milling around. “Empyrean”, “Spiegel Zelt”. They’re little tents and shacks and caravans, gussied up in carny, decadent style.

Hung out at the bar for a bit, looked at the run-downs on the boards outside the venues: 11.15pm “Constance Goodenough’s Zymotic Disregards”, and “cancelled tonight”. One chalk line through it marks failure; no one bought a ticket. Couldn’t even comp it. There’s half a dozen of those, all the way up the winding path of Gluttony, the Flanders field of the culture wars, bodies awaiting burial.

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Part Five

The wash-up and wash-out: why South Australia turned into such a damp squib

Well, South Australia, in the end what a fizzer you proved to be. As m’colleague William Bowe makes clear, it was the latest in a series of fizzers, after Tasmania and Batman, in which insurgency was checked, and power returned to the norm. Batman was a two-way slugathon; in Tasmania, the far greater prospect of an upset was rendered unlikely by the shambolic performance of the Jacqui Lambie Network.

South Australia was the fizzieriest fizzer of all. In a polity known for its breakaways and independents, power simply changed hands between major parties, with the incoming Liberals taking 24 or 25 seats, a majority in their own right, something Labor lacked. The mainstream pundits will read all sorts of things into it about political cycles.

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