ALONG with the ill-fated “SA: Going All the Way” and “SA: The Electronics State”, one of South Australia’s dullest numberplate slogans is “SA: The Defence State”.

It’s a pity such plates have been discontinued, because I reckon we could redesign them with a more accurate slogan: “SA: The Defensive State”.

SA is a state constantly on the defence about itself, ready to attack anyone who has anything even vaguely negative to say about it, whether that criticism is valid or not.

We have skin thinner than a Bunnings sausage.

Our default setting is offended.

We take so much umbrage we should start investigating possible sites to store it in the Flinders.

Take the recent Sam Neill incident, for example. Speaking at an event, the Jurassic Park star railed against what he sees as the cultural decline of Sydney thanks to the NSW government’s lockout laws, which stop people entering bars after 1.30am and force all venues to close at 3am.

“Sydney used to be such a vibrant and exciting place in the late ’70s and early ’80s. There was an extraordinary culture but the vibrancy has been sucked out of the place,” he said.

“I don’t really want to see Adelaide being a place to go for a good weekend.”

No sooner had the words left his lips the klaxons had sounded in Adelaide Defence HQ, hundreds of loyal South Australians leaping to the barricades to defend their capital city from this scorching attack from the east.

“Adelaide has always had great nightlife — go and eat a bag of d***s!” tweeted one loyal soldier.

“Adelaide doesn’t need Sam Neill to have a good weekend!” sniffed another upset Adelaidian, while someone else wept into their Weetbix as they tweeted: “What did Adelaide ever do to Sam Neill?”.

Lord Mayor Martin Haese even tweeted an invitation to show Neill around the city, which he incidentally seems to have taken up.

What everyone seems to have missed is that Neill wasn’t having a crack at Adelaide, he was having a crack at Sydney.

He didn’t say Adelaide “isn’t a good place to go for a good weekend”, as many misquoted him. His point was that if Sydneysiders have to travel 1400km south west for a good time, that’s pretty tragic.

And it is.

If you’ve tried to get a drink in Sydney lately you’ll understand.

But in SA: The Defensive State, that doesn’t matter. It sounded like a slight, and that’s enough for us to shoot to nuclear level outrage.

Our ego is so bruised from decades of comparing ourselves to bigger cities, our typical reaction any time an outsider suggests we are anything less than a utopia is to lash out and tell them to go back where they came from, or to point out that we have small bars now.

It’s worth remembering the only reason we HAVE small bars now is because at some point someone noticed that our bar scene kind of sucked.

And instead of telling them how great our wine regions were and how our restaurants are world class and check-out-our-great-oval-yeah-Adelaide-is-awesome, we actually listened to them.

Listening to criticism is how you grow. Unfortunately SA can be so defensive we remain insular, constantly patting ourselves on the back about how liveable we are and attacking anyone who says we’re not.

Unless we want to change our numberplates to “SA: The state with chronically low self-esteem” or “SA: Please just tell us we’re OK”, I suggest we stop obsessing about what outsiders say about us, and work out how we can continue to grow.


First published in The Advertiser on August 29, 2016. CLICK HERE to read the original article.