21 November 1999 Stephen Mayne Published November 21, 1999
Well, after canvassing the wider family in England at grandpa's 100th birthday celebrations, Jeffed.com has been given the green light to contest the Burwood by-election on December 11.
Why so, you ask, if Jeff is not there any more?
Well, to start with, there is an element of poetic justice given that I was the only one of 400 candidates rejected in the September 18 general election.
You live in Melbourne for 28 years, run to Sydney to get away from Jeff and then can't even return to stand against him in a last ditch attempt to draw attention to serious accountability, transparency and cronyism issues that the mainstream media have given insufficient attention to.
But poetic justice aside, there are some other good reasons for running for Parliament in the new Victoria.
Firstly, there are now three distinct camps in the lower house. The Labor minority government, the coalition and three rural-based independents who hold the balance of power.
Surely, the people of Burwood should be given an opportunity to vote for someone representing those three distinct groups.
With no sign of any other credible independents on the horizon, it makes sense for me to stand, particularly as I would have been the only independent standing in Burwood on September 18.
After being ruled out last time, we checked to see if there was another independent standing in Burwood who we could support instead. But there was no one.
The other factor which prompted me to stand was the defeat in preselection of annointed Liberal candidate Helen Kroger, who would, by all accounts, have made an excellent member.
Instead, the Liberal Party have preselected Lana McLean, an education consultant who has a passion for frogs and does not live in the electorate.
Labor has stuck with its academic candidate Bob Stensholt who did not inspire the electorate last time achieving a swing to him about half of what Labor achieved across wider Melbourne.
Bob is a nice guy but I can remember him ringing me during the campaign right in the middle of Jeff's second last weekly appearance with Neil Mitchell on 3AW. All political operators in Victoria know that it is a must to listen in to Kennett on Mitchell at 9am each Thursday. Everyone, except Labor's candidate in Burwood, it seems.
Lined up against a wall, Jeffed.com is confident he can best serve the people of Burwood better than what Labor and the Liberals are offering in this most important by-election.
The frog-obsessive does not deserve to win the seat because the Liberal Party head office didn't even want her. And the people of Burwood have every right to be annoyed with the Liberals and Jeff in particular for selfishly forcing them back to the polls so quickly.
Burwood has always been a Liberal seat and therefore rather than turning to Labor as a protest, they are now being offered a Liberal-leaning independent who comes with the highest recommendations from that very hard to please former Liberal Treasurer, Alan Stockdale.
Besides, electing an independent would ensure the seat of Burwood received much more attention, just like the seats held by the three other independents.
Do the voters of Burwood want to elect an unknown backbencher to represent their interests or someone sensibly sharing the balance of power with three other independents?
And this is the key to the argument in favor of standing. The independents have been placed in a position of tremendous importance and responsibility and have so far conducted themselves immaculately.
Did anyone ever believe you'd see the day that three rural independents put the interest of decency, democracy and accountability ahead of their own personal electorates in deciding who they would support?
However, the government remains on the edge of a precipice. Any one independent could bring the government down and Craig Ingram's spokesman has already been quoted saying he was prepared to do this for the Snowy, although he later distanced himself from these comments.
Electing jeffed.com as an independent would mean it would take two of the four independents to bring down the government. This is a much better situation than what exists presently.
And despite being a lifelong Liberal voter, I would have no intention of bringing down the government unless something absolutely extroardinary happened.
While each individual bill would be carefully assessed with the other independents, supply and confidence motions for the government would be supported in the interest of providing stable government.
In assessing these bills, I would improve the overall package provided by the independents as I bring a city perspective, good knowledge of business and the media and a degree of understanding about where the bodies are buried on both sides.
As someone who has stood up in the past four weeks asking question at AGMs of some of our biggest, most powerful and toughest business leaders such as Rupert Murdoch, James Packer and Frank Lowy, I am well prepared for standing up and asking probing questions in Parliament.
The campaign will be run largely through cyberspace and a letter box drop and I will be seeking to debate all other candidates publicly. The conduct and performance during these debates will also influence what happens with my preferences.
My natural inclination would be to preference the Liberals but any independent hoping to win a seat puts the favourite last and the issue of ending the one seat majority is also important.
Like Lana McLean, I don't live in Burwood. I grew up in Templestowe and live in East Melbourne but do have some affinity with the seat.
As a former tennis coach, tennis has been a huge part of my life and I play pennant tennis for Willison Park tennis club, which is just outside the electorate.
Similarly, my two sisters went to school in the electorate and if, by some remarkable turn of events, I won the seat I would move to the electorate within three months, unlike people such as Mary Delahunty who refused to move to Northcote after being elected.
Jeffed.com is the first website outside the mainstream party process to offer direct democracy principles and will continue to do so through this campaign.
Set up on a shoestring budget during the September Victorian election campaign, the site has attracted more than 300,000 page views and played a small but important part in the fall of the government and the return of decency and democracy to Victoria.
Jeffed.com was criticising Jeff before it was fashionable as has been the case since the election.
While it was embarrassing to be disqualified last time, it did allow me to focus on the broader electorate and give thousands of Victorians a perspective on Jeff and his government that they weren't getting through his megolomaniac site, www.Jeff.com, or the mainstream media.
Now that Jeff is gone, there remain major issues in Victoria that need to be addressed and people are right to talk about Labor as being an L-plate government in short pants.
I would be the only person in the Parliament who worked in Jeff's office during his seven year term and this would be a useful addition to the Parliament and the team of independents.
Similarly, I have a greater knowledge of Australian business, companies and boards than virtually anyone else in the State Parliament now that Alan Stockdale and Phil Gude have retired.
It would be good to have an independent honing in on Steve Bracks' claim to be "unashamedly pro-business", especially given the damage Labor wreaked on Victoria when they were last in office.
Already, the unions are coming out of the closet and the sacking of WorkCover boss Andrew Lindberg, who was widely respected by business for saving a bankrupt insurance scheme, sent a bad message to business.
If elected to Burwood, I pledge to work closely with the Independents to ensure we Keep The Bastards Honest.
My platform includes things such as abolishing the upper house and setting up a powerful and completely independent anti-corruption commission.
As someone who has lived and worked for two years in NSW, I know how the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and the Police Integrity Commission are serving the state well.
It was very disappointing that the Labor government has already discarded the idea of setting up an anti-corruption body. Anyone who has read the treatise on jeffed.com would appreciate that some of the excesses identified would not have happened or been tolerated with an ICAC in Victoria.
Other things I would be standing for include much tougher ethical ministerial guidelines, greater disclosure requirements in the Parliamentary register of interests and much more timely disclosure of political donations.
In terms of local issues, City Link tolls, abolition of tram stops by private operations and planning are all key issues.
It is ironic that the Liberal Party has preselected someone who approached former Planning Minister Rob Maclellan during a dispute with her neighbour.
In terms of Transurban, I am firmly of the view that the state should buy back the project now while technological, political and engineering uncertainty bedevils the project and depresses the Transurban share price.
The Liberals did such a dreadful deal for motorists, that I've little doubt Transurban shares will more than double over the next five years as they prove up their ability to rake in the projected $200 million a year in toll revenue.
Victoria has such a strong balance sheet now, thanks to Alan Stockdale, that the government could easily afford to buy back the project and, if necessary, implement more modest tolls for a few years to help pay off the debt.
This policy would be good for the people of Burwood because the government has a unique opportunity to strike whilst Transurban is vulnerable.
An interesting part of the campaign to watch will be how the media handles it. Papers such as the Herald Sun and the Australian Financial Review banned any reference to my website because it contained criticism of them.
This is wrong - because stories should be based on their news value and nothing else - but understandable.
Since the election, I have been to all the media company AGMs and asked some probing questions which has further antagonised some of them.
In the interest of fair reporting, I will tone down some of the criticisms of the media on the website as a peace offering to see if they can treat the campaign and the candidates on their merits.
There will still be regular updates and analysis of the media coverage on the website, but the shrill attacks will be toned down.
I will not be back in Australian until next Saturday but will post a number of policies and observations on this website whilst away.
Must run, lunch with Grandpa, his 14 great grandchildren and the 18 other members of his immediate family is about to be served.
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