By Thomas Kelsall | @Thomas_Kelsall
Election night, March 17, the Labor Party’s 16-year rule over South Australia is slowly drawing to a close, and long-time journalist Jayne Stinson is covering the proceedings on Channel 7’s election panel.
But for the first time in her career, she is not bound to the journalistic principles of objectivity, independence and impartiality.
That’s because Stinson is in the middle of a fight for the marginal seat of Badcoe; she had resigned her post as a reporter 13 months earlier.
“My mother did say to me, ‘what on earth are you doing? You’ve got a perfectly good job, why would you go into the unstable industry of politics?’” Ms Stinson said.
“But there’s a very good reason and that’s because I’m passionate about making a difference.
“Journalism is really important…but the one drawback that I found at least is you can’t actually change that much yourself.
“Whereas if you’re in the industry of politics, if you’re representing people in your local community, you can actually make a difference almost every day.”
Stinson’s media career involved a bit of everything, from journalism to public relations, online writing to TV and local to international reporting; there are not many paths she left unexplored.
Her career journey repeatedly exposed her to the darker side of our society, something which has informed her thoughts on politics.
“I think that’s the insight journalism provides you with, that really quite personal insight into the drivers of crime and the drivers of some of the things that we tackle within politics,” Ms Stinson said.
“You do get to know offenders as well as victims, and you do get to understand that committing a crime is usually not some isolated thing that happens in someone’s life.
“It does give you an insight that there are remedies to crime and reducing crime is really about tackling social issues.
“It’s really about providing education, providing good health care, providing good mental health care, help to people who may find themselves addicted to drugs [and] families who find themselves dealing with relatives who are addicted to drugs.”
One of the hardest stories Stinson ever covered was the Hectorville Siege.
Stinson was tasked with interviewing Rika Mombers, a survivor who witnessed the death of her husband and parents-in-law.
“I remember being really nervous for that interview… to ask someone to reveal part of themselves… to give the public an insight into that experience and that grief, I think it’s a really big ask,” Ms Stinson said.
“I worked with that family for quite a long time on those stories as they went through the court, and then really had the privilege of being the reporter who interviewed Rika Mombers at the end of that.
“They were a deeply spiritual and religious family, and the thing that touched me was her incredible capacity for forgiveness and understanding.
“That’s the thing about court reporting is you see the worst of human behaviour, but you also see the absolute best, and I think that was reflected in that story.”
Stinson’s observations of the media landscape around her have also informed her position on issues such as parental leave and the importance of equal pay.
“We’ve had many more women graduate as journalists, yet if we look at the leadership of media institutions, there’s hardly any women in management or in news director positions in Adelaide,” Ms Stinson said.
“Women are doing incredibly meritorious work all of the time, so you have to then question what is happening here, and I think a lot of it is women who are getting to their late 20s…deciding to have kids and feeling like they can’t come back to the workplace.
“So I think we really need to look at what things we’ve got in place in terms of maternity leave and suitable working hours.”
In February 2017, Stinson nominated for Labor preselection in the seat of Badcoe.
A new electorate, Badcoe is made up of 15 metropolitan residential suburbs south-west of the Parklands and has a voter population of about 24,640 people.
Notable areas include North & South Plympton, Edwardstown, Glandore, Clarence Gardens and Ascot Park.
The boundary redistribution from the former seat of Ashford improved Labor’s margin from 1.9 to 4.2 per cent.
Despite this, Badcoe was still only a marginal seat and, during the lead up to the election, Stinson would have to draw upon all the communication skills she learnt in media to aide her campaign.
The Labor Party does not pay candidates running for office or provide them with staff, so her campaign was dependent on her own abilities and the work of volunteers.
“You use your own skills as a candidate both in terms of when you have to deal with media management, but also in terms of your campaigning skills, your interpersonal skills, listening to people,” Ms Stinson said.
“I think the skills I had as a journalist were hugely useful in terms of listening, being able to form coherent arguments, and have a constructive conversation with people.”
Aside from communicating, Stinson also realised the importance of doing real work as a candidate.
In the 12 months leading up to the election, she secured over $46 million in grants for projects both inside and outside of her electorate.
“There’s about 20 projects I got locked in before the election, and I did that on purpose because I didn’t want people to be in limbo if we had a hung parliament or if we had a liberal government,” Ms Stinson said.
“So almost all of the commitments I’ve made have already been paid for out of the existing budget.”
The Liberals chose former Unley Mayor Lachlan Clyne to run for Badcoe, while SA Best put forward lawyer Kate Bickford.
Two hours into Channel 7’s election coverage, Stinson held over 40 per cent of the vote in Badcoe and left the TV set to join her election team’s event at the AVOCA.
“Probably the biggest moment was walking into the celebrations and people just going nuts,” Ms Stinson said.
“It’s a real investment for all your volunteers. We had hundreds and hundreds of volunteers working on our campaign, and each of them give up their time and work long hours for absolutely no reward, just because they want to see you elected.
“As I said to my team, I think they can be really proud of all the effort they put into Badcoe. It was a hard fight, and we did have a formidable opponent against us.”
However, as election night drew on, it became clear Labor would no longer form a majority government.
At 8:41 pm, amidst the celebrations at the AVOCA, Atony Green called the election for the Liberals.
In a night of such conflicting emotions, Stinson’s travels on election night exposed her to all the different sentiments within the party.
“Obviously it’s pretty bittersweet, I went on to the ALP party and of course it’s a bit of different mood there,” Ms Stinson said.
“I think the boundaries were always going to be tough for us to overcome, and I think Labor did better than many people expected.
“So I wouldn’t say it was a disastrous feeling, but obviously I was really sad.”
While Labor will spend the next four years as a minority for the first time since 2001, its newest member remains optimistic about the party’s direction.
“I think we’ve done really well to get some new faces into our line-up… those people will drive the future of the Labor Party, so I think we’re actually in really good shape.”
“I’ll be working hard to make sure we regain government to make sure we deliver what we think is a really vibrant and a really exciting vision for Adelaide.”
Image Courtesy: Jayne Stinson’s Campaign Facebook Page