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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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54 thoughts on “Down to the wire – South Australia decides

  1. The Advertiser was not Rupert Murdoch’s first paper. It was The News – hence the name Newscorp. The News was always a tabloid, and mainly an afternoon paper. The Advertiser was the morning broadsheet. When Newscorp bought The Advertiser, The News was sold, and eventually died.

    1. He also promptly turned “The Advertiser” into a tabloid – basically “The News”, only in the morning instead of the afternoon.

  2. Incredible that voters in Tasmania & SA could be sufficiently gullible to fall for the ‘pokies create jobs’ farce.

    Incidentally, ‘Rupert Murdoch’s first paper’ (ie: the one his tentacles initially tainted) was actually The News, Adelaide’s former afternoon rag.

  3. Something has to give in our inept political class. I can only wish Nick Xenophon and ALPs Mark Butler well in their respective attempts at smashing politics-as-usual. Otherwise we are careering toward fourth-world status.

  4. “as his NXT Senate team came apart under the impact of section 44 rulings, disqualifying himself and NXT fellow Skye Kakoschke-Moore.”

    Correction. Nick wasn’t disqualified, only challenged.

  5. Me tinks grundle tapped this out from illegible notes.
    If any, it’s a longgg way from Batburg.

  6. The idea that nothing happens in ADELAIDE is ridiculous and does you no credit Guy. Apart from leading the nation in many innovations from the early 1890s, I am exhausted after enjoying the ADELAIDE Festival, the Fringe, Australia’s best city street car race, Womad and much more in recent weeks. We have our troubles as all do, but there’s plenty happening…maybe it’s your view that’s rusty and out of date.

    1. Agree Robbo. I think Rundle stretches himself a bit thin at times and this throw away line and the assertion that The Advertiser was Rupert’s first, is evidence. Rundle is doing a FIFO on SA but that’s no excuse, especially in March! Not just that though, the city-scape has changed a lot since he last visited (when Tom Playford’s gerrymander ruled the state?).

    2. I didn’t say nothing happens. I said the city sometimes has the air of that. Sorry, but that’s simply how those long often empty streets sometimes feel.

      1. P.S. Guy, the LA comparison was the first thing that popped into my head when I moved here. Endless low-rise suburbia on a grid, speckled with strip malls, surrounded by hills, sprawling. You’re spot-on.

    3. “Nothing” happens in Adelaide. It doesn’t mean nothing happens. It means it’s a quiet town. They don’t call it Bendigo-by-the-Sea for nothing.

      Yes, I live here, and yes, it has been getting better recently. But it’s still sleepy outside a few weeks in Autumn.

      1. BOSTON MATT: OUCH! “Bendigo-by-the-Sea for nothing.” I hadn’t heard that.

  7. Nobody knows what will happen on Saturday but Adelaide will still be a vibrant festival city – at least for a while- rather than a country town; a description which could only be given by a supercilious windbag.

    The amount of money being spent to try and prop up the nice but ineffectual Vincent Tarzia in the face of the opposition of Nick Xenophon play is incredible. Robo-calls going out this evening from an unidentified but mellifluous voiced woman saying support good old Vincent not those dreadful SABest and Labor people. This on top of many letters, leaflets, corflutes, tweets, Facebook posts and a giant poster on the Migrant Monument corner. Who knows where the funding is coming from but it is a lot of money being spent by the Liberals.

  8. Exactly which lower house SA seats do you reckon the Greens have the whiff of a chance at taking? They polled ~19% in Heysen, once, the election the Dems collapsed. They barely crack 10% anywhere else, unless I’m forgetting something?

    1. I said the last 2 wld be genuine independents and or greens. Yes Heysen is the best shot. These are 4 way races + minor runners. In preferential systems, you can get there from a 15-20% vote. The more candidates in exhaustive preferential, the less important the primary. Imagine a race with 51 candidates – A gets 49%, B gets 2%, C – ZY get 1% each. B gets 100% of their preferences and wins. Heysen is very winnable for the Greens.

      1. Heysen is the best shot.. though Adelaide could become quite strange if Greens outpoll SABest.

        1. It could, if SA-Best were running in Adelaide. They’re not. You’d think they would have made it a target for psychology’s sake – I reckon not doing so (and missing out on all those extra corflutes on King William) was a big mistake on their part.

          1. Which is my point. SABest are polling 21% in Adelaide, but do not have a lower house candidate……

      2. I was referring more to the following:

        “…say, 16-15-14-2 seats (SA-Best, Labor/Liberals, and the Greens respectively)”

        Anyway, I’d love to see the Greens in the lower house, but I don’t know where else they’d stand a chance of picking up a seat. Inner Melbourne our beloved Bendigo-by-the-Sea is not. Any lazy research is complicated by the fact that googling their election results will be forever fraught so long as Antony Green lives…

  9. Beautifully written. The man sounds rather infantile, a pity as his stance on pokies redeems him.

  10. I like the copy GR, but the format’s a bugger.

    1. Ditto Rhwombat.
      I know the hamsters in the Crikey IT bunker are starving to death.
      But *someone* should tell them to bring out the whiteboad/screen for this format.
      It’s an absolute dog.

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