Pokies push, by-election, Murdoch, Paul Howes, Doncaster Hill, Xenophon party, Herald Sun, preference deals, Bolt, Manningham, ASX changes, Tweeting and then some

July 16, 2012

Dear 15,436 Mayne Report readers,

Shock, horror, after no service for two months this is the second comprehensive email edition in a week. There must be an election on, as was explained last Tuesday. Today's missive includes plenty on our two greatest passions - the need for poker machine reform and the problem with power abuse by the unethical Murdoch media empire. If you've had enough, click here to unsubscribe. Alternatively, if you enjoy the content, click here for the URL and share it with your friends.

Cranking up the pokies message in Melbourne

A tougher line on poker machines is the key message being pushed in the Melbourne by-election and hasn't it been a big few days for media coverage of the issue. ABC1's flagship current affairs program 7.30 went in very hard with the following two powerful stories last week:

Thursday: Gambling prison sentence focuses attention

Wednesday: Shareholders call for Woolies action on pokies

It would be nice to know what millionaire Packer family fixers from the NSW Right, Graham Richardson, Mark Arbib and Karl Bitar make of all this social misery caused by Crown along with their friends in the pubs and clubs.

The Age then splashed on Saturday with a huge piece about the staggering $38 billion which has been lost on the pokies since they were introduced in Victoria 20 years ago.

I'm getting some blue t-shirts produced for booth workers on polling days with the message: "STEPHEN MAYNE: Stop the pokies"

It was disappointing Victorian Greens leader Greg Barber didn't hammer the pokies message when he was asked by Barrie Cassidy on Insiders yesterday to explain his party's values and key differences with the ALP.

The pokies is one of the biggest differences.

The Greens wouldn't mind if pokies disappeared altogether, whereas Labor's cynical approach sees it captured by the enormous gambling industry lobby and raising campaign funds by directly operating more than 1000 machines in Sydney and Canberra.

If you want more detail on that, see the following:

Belconnen Labor Club: 272 machines
City Labor Club in Canberra: 58 poker machines
Ginninderra Labor Club: 93 poker machines
Weston Creek Labor Club: 63 poker machines
Revesby Workers Club: 509 poker machines and chaired by Federal Labor MP Darryl Melham
Keneally concedes at ALP's Randwick pokies venue
Goulburn Workers Club makes $4m from pokies, slams reform proposal

This is what the CEO of the Revesby Workers Club, Ed Camilleri told The Australian last year before Julia Gillard did her slippery deal with the Speaker and ditched her commitment to Andrew Wilkie:

"At a lot of clubs like Revesby Workers Club, it's in our charter to support the ALP. We've helped candidates at a federal, state and local level, helped them to get into the campaigns, rounding up support from the members."

So, if members of Labor-owned pokies clubs can be rounded up to support the party in key campaigns, presumably it is just fine for people who are concerned about poker machines to campaign for an end to this insidious relationship.

Therefore, if anyone fancies sending the ALP a message on Saturday and handing out cards for the independent anti-pokies candidate trying to influence the outcome in a key by-election, drop us a line to Stephen@maynereport.com.

Alternatively, click on the image below to send through a donation.

Anyone who gives more than $40 will be sent a signed copy of this memoir when it is released in the second half of next year:

Elisabeth Murdoch shows dad how it's done

We sent the following two tweets out on Saturday morning:

"Elisabeth Murdoch is best of breed. Sends dad a message by resigning as Shine CEO and staying on as chair. Why can't News Corp do this too?"

"Memo to dad: 'As Shine diversifies, it requires the chairman & CEO roles to be distinct & separate,' Ms Murdoch told The Financial Times.

Indeed, why won't Rupert Murdoch surrender either the chairman or CEO role at News Corp after almost 60 years in the top job? It is poor governance to combine the positions and now even his own daughter has made the point.

This Crikey story on June 29 predicted that Rupert would use the forthcoming News Corp publishing de-merger as an opportunity to lock in succession planning. It included these lines:

Always remember this: Rupert Murdoch loves newspapers and is a control freak who fanatically obsesses about sustaining his family's powerful dynasty. Therefore, his belated embrace of a publishing demerger should be viewed as an opportunity to shore up the family's control over key assets and succession.

For all this talk of Chase Carey winning the internal argument, the baseball-loving American's power has actually been reduced. Rupert Murdoch turns 82 next March and shortly thereafter he will become executive chairman of the separated entertainment business, with Carey remaining as his clear understudy at a smaller business.

At the moment, News Corp lists 16 directors on its website, although long-time corporate adviser Stan Schuman is “director emeritus” who doesn't face annual election. Rather than facing a board coup over the phone-hacking scandal, Rupert has now created a unique opportunity to shuffle the deck on family succession and hand pick future non-executive directors who agree to family dominance.

Those who talked of corporate governance reforms could well find themselves on the outer.

For starters, you would expect Elisabeth Murdoch, who was paid $US1.7 million last year to manage the successful Shine television production division, to join the board of the entertainment company.

The resignation as an executive clears the way for Elisabeth to join the main News Corp board and don't be surprised if she is also positioning herself to one day succeed her father as chair, albeit in a non-executive capacity.

How can Lachlan compete with News Corp on NRL bid?

We've reported many times about how inappropriate it is to have Lachlan Murdoch as a News Corp director and a substantial shareholder in Ten Network Holdings who has also served as acting CEO and now non-executive chairman. Indeed, the following appeared in Crikey on February 8 this year:

Andrew Bolt and Mark Day reveal how Lachlan Murdoch is breaching cross-media laws

Perhaps the most striking recent example of Australia's supine cross-media ownership laws was the decision by ACMA to allow Lachlan Murdoch to remain as a director of News Corp while clearly influencing Network Ten. The argument presented was that Lachlan was exerting no management influence over News Ltd in Australia where John Hartigan was an independent executive chairman.

If you believe Mark Day's column in The Australian on Monday, it was Lachlan Murdoch who engineered the appointment of his mate Kim Williams as News Ltd CEO. Similarly, Day claimed that Rupert's appointment as non-executive chair of News Ltd is just keeping the warm chair for Lachlan.

Given that Lachlan also personally controls 50% of radio company DMG, it is clearly unlawful for him to simultaneously exert management influence over Network Ten and News Ltd.

Thanks to these useful disclosures by long-time Murdoch loyalists Andrew Bolt and Mark Day, ACMA has the material to now intervene and extract Lachlan's resignation from either the News Corp or Network Ten boards. ACMA did precisely that with David Evans in 2009, where he was forced to resign from the Fairfax board.

Let's hope a different standard is not applied by ACMA to the Murdochs, just because there is no more powerful family anywhere in the world.

As if to confirm the point, Lachlan Murdoch joined his father attending Herb Allen's famous media conference in Sun Valley over the past few days. Did they talk about Network Ten potentially being a challenger to the Fox Sports-Nine Network consortium that is bidding for the NRL rights at the moment?

Check out the photo gallery of the event, including the Murdoch boys, on Huffington Post.

Media coverage of Melbourne by-election campaign

For some strange reason, the Green-hating Murdoch-owned Herald Sun has really under-played the fascinating Melbourne by-election campaign.

This may in part be because News Ltd's editorial boss in Victoria, Peter Blunden, has imposed a long-term ban on me for daring to criticise him as being too soft on Jeff Kennett way back in 1999.

Faced with the choice of covering the Legislative Council or mentioning its former Business Editor, the poor old Herald Sun chose not to cover the upper house in those crucial days after the 2010 state election when it looked like I may hold the bold of power in my own right. Such pettiness!

Seeing as a couple of senior Kennett Government ministers were granted the lead letter in Saturday's Herald Sun slamming the Greens, I submitted the following letter for publication in today's paper:

Liberals backing Greens

Not all Liberals from the Kennett era share the view of Pat McNamara and Phil Gude in arguing Greens candidate, Cr Cathy Oke, should be placed last of the 16 candidates contesting Saturday's Melbourne by-election.

I'm a former Kennett Government staffer running as an anti-pokies independent and am preferencing the impressive Greens candidate ahead of Labor's Jennifer Kanas.

Few people realise that the ALP itself owns more than 1000 poker machines in the ACT and NSW. The Melbourne by-election is the first chance voters have to punish Labor for abandoning Andrew Wilkie and problem gamblers after Julia Gillard's sleazy deal to make Peter Slipper speaker.

Only the Greens support the $1 maximum bets recommended by the Productivity Commission which would reduce the staggering $2. 6 billion a year that Victorians lose on poker machines.

Stephen Mayne

Alas, the silly ban remains in place as the letter didn't run, providing another little piece of evidence about the way power is abused by the Murdoch empire in Australia's democracy.

News Ltd goes to war against Greens, rails against media regulation

With the possible exception of New Zealand, Australia has allowed more foreign ownership of its media than any other developed democracy.

And thanks to politicians such as Paul Keating, John Howard and Steve Fielding, we also have one of the most concentrated media markets.

Allowing such concentrated media power means that companies like News Corp can dictate terms to politicians and make various policy demands. Hence the endless bile and propaganda directed at anything to do with the Greens which completely breaches various MEAA and company codes about bias and fairness.

It was amusing to watch three News Ltd journalists - Peter Van Onselen, Paul Kelly and Matthew Franklin - hop into Environment Minister Tony Burke yesterday on Sky News' Agenda program yesterday demanding he declare his opposition to any form of media regulation.

These guys don't seem to understand that News Corp has been revealed to have tolerated industrial scale criminality across its UK newspaper division involving many illegal practices, including numerous payments to public officials.

We've all been told there is nothing like it in the Australian operation. Perhaps News Ltd CEO Kim Williams should have a quiet look at past news gathering techniques in Bali!

The Kim Williams approach seems to involve a blanket refusal to countenance any media regulation and this brazen threat to appeal the unknown proposal all the way to the High Court is a classic example of News Ltd bullying.

It was most amusing to read the following correction on page 2 of The Australian today:

News Media Council

Janet Albrechtsen ("Silencing critics in seven illiberal steps", 11/7) wrote that the Finkelstein report proposed the News Media Council would "licence the press". In fact, the report explicitly recommends against licensing the press.

The main media debate in Australia at the moment should be whether News Corp can buy James Packer's pay-TV operations and move into a monopoly position in pay-TV which would be hugely powerful when combined with its 60%-plus share of the daily newspaper market.

Alas, this barely gets mentioned as the Murdoch press rail against any proposed regulatory reforms coming from Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and run this amazing jihad against the Greens.

How the preferences are flowing in Melbourne

First up, click here to see an image of the 20,000 A5 how-to-vote cards that we'll be picking up tomorrow. Yes, yes, there's an embarrassing typo right at the bottom with "transparence".

Still, if you fancy handing a few of these out on Saturday - or at early voting on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday - drop us a line to Stephen@maynereport.com. Paula is spending part of today finalising the spread sheet with booth allocations across Carlton, North Melbourne, Kensington, Flemington, Parkville, East Melbourne and Docklands.

Of the 16 registered how-to-vote cards for candidates contesting the Melbourne by-election, 8 favour the Greens, 7 favour the ALP and eccentric independent Gerrit has registered 11 strange cards which take no position at all.

Interestingly, the Greens have no support from any of the 5 other registered parties running: Labor, DLP, Family First, Australian S*x Party and Australian Christian Party.

Even Berhan Ahmed, the former Victorian of the Year who was unfairly smeared by Labor deputy leader James Merlino as a "Green stooge", has stuck with his decision and is preferencing Labor 7 and the Greens 8.

Here is an extract from last Thursday's Crikey story on one issue that perhaps the ALP needs to address as it launches ill-considered attacks on the preference arrangements of others:

Amidst all the misguided attack strategies, it is Labor's own preference deal with adult industry lobbyist Fiona Patten that is most deserving of attention. At candidate forums in both Carlton and Docklands this week, Patten told residents the adult industry was motivated to form their astutely named Australian S-x Party after Communications Minister Stephen Conroy pursued his proposed internet filter.

This was "the last straw" for an exasperated industry and Patten huffed that it was still Labor policy, even though the Greens helped foil it in the Senate.

Given that the pro-censorship Conroy is a key factional powerbroker involved in the Melbourne byelection campaign, how on earth has he secured a favourable preference deal with the Australian S-x Party? Has Patten sidelined the Greens in exchange for a nod and a wink that Labor will support her Senate tilt next year?

If Labor wants to talk about "grubby deals", more light should be shone on arrangements between the p-rn party and Labor, the so-called "pokies party" which operates more than 1000 poker machines in the ACT and NSW.

Links to media coverage and polls

Here is a selection of links to media coverage of our campaign to see the issue of poker machine reform directly claim its first Labor scalp:

June 5
ABC online on announcement

June 12
Moonee Valley Weekly on pokies debate
Gary Morgan poll predicting 7% primary and Green win

June 18
Moonee Valley Weekly on pokies negotiations and Morgan poll

June 19
Melbourne Weekly reports $1 bet preferences offer to Labor

July 2
ALP dirt sheet distributed in East Melbourne and Docklands

July 4
Interview with Jon Faine on ALP dirt sheet, plus ALP boss condemns tactic
Comprehensive New Matilda piece on by-election campaign

July 7
Sunday Age story on VEC investigation into Labor dirt sheet

July 10
Mayne Report email edition

July 11
Daniel Andrews slams dirt sheet then repeats allegations on Fran Kelly

July 12
The Age on Labor's botched "grubby deals" attack on the Greens
The Australian's John Ferguson belatedly covers by-election
Crikey story on Melbourne preference dealings and ALP own goals

July 13
Crikey tips and rumours item about ABC ban

How much is News Corp paying Paul Howes?

Back on April 16, I got stuck into the lax executive pay disclosure regimes in some institutions with the following Crikey story:
Time to improve disclosure of union, council and super fund pay

Elected officials and key bureaucrats should all be disclosing their pay arrangements, along with any additional benefits they get from outside bodies.

For instance, NSW Right bovver boy Paul Howes recently tweeted that his AWU salary is only $140,000, yet he has repeatedly refused to engage on the salary top-up he receives from that anti-union outfit News Corp for his regular column in The Sunday Telegraph.

News Ltd has long put emerging politicians on the payroll as paid columnists. It's a perfectly legal way to build relationships and bank balances.

But as News Ltd brazenly attempts to tear down this minority Labor government and anything to do with the Greens, these payments to people like Howes should be disclosed to AWU and ALP members.

For instance, how do we know that Howes isn't getting the same eye-popping 390,000 pounds that British foreign minister William Hague collected over a 2 year period as an opposition spokesman writing columns for the News Corp red-tops in 2003 and 2004?

Howes' weekly column started in October 2010, shortly after the last Federal election.

When Mark Latham signed up as a Daily Telegraph columnist in the late 1990s, he noted in his Latham Diaries that the money came in very handy after his divorce. He was also more than happy to write various columns that he knew would please his paymasters at News Ltd.

A win at Manningham on executive pay disclosure

After pushing hard for months, I had a win on executive pay disclosure at Manningham recently when councillors voted 7-1 in favour of the following motion at the May 29 council meeting:

Council resolves that commencing with the 2011-12 annual report, Council will move closer to ASX-style remuneration disclosure for its 5 most senior highly remunerated officers. Information to be disclosed from 2011-12 onwards will include the name and position of each officer, the terms and duration of any service contract, salary and benefit entitlements.

See page 2149 of the minutes for proof that Manningham is the first of Victoria's 79 councils to embrace this move. Hopefully many others will follow.

There'll be plenty more on this in future editions but I also had a win when councillors voted 7-1 in favour of comprehensive councillor expenses disclosure at the June council meeting. Have a listen to the debate.

In both cases, it was only the perenially negative and cranky Cr Graeme Macmillan who voted against. I'll be campaigning strongly against his re-election if he chooses to run again at the October election.

Gold-plating the power network leads to higher prices

We've run a few stories about SP Ausnet's proposed $271 million Brunswick Terminal Station investment over the past two years but were most impressed with this Michael West story on Fairfax's businessday.com.au two weeks ago.

It is good to see the Australian Energy Regulator is looking at this question of gold-plating and whether power companies are gaming the regulatory system by over-investing in transmission infrastructure.

The Brunswick Terminal will supply the Melbourne CBD, so any investment spend will have to be recouped from consumers.

The SP Ausnet AGM is on Thursday and this issue may well come up in debate as any excessive gold-plating will ultimately lead to voters in both the state seat of Melbourne and the City of Melbourne paying even more for their power.

The ASA will be represented by Tom Rado at the meeting, so any contributions I make will be in an individual capacity not on behalf of the ASA.

A chat with Jane Hutcheon on One Plus One about the Xenophon party dream

The past few weeks has been extremely busy on the media front and it seems like months ago that ABC1 broadcast this interview with Jane Hutcheon on One Plus One.

Aunty's lawyers advised that some comments about Jeff Kennett were excised but apart from that, it's a lively profile interview.

Wouldn't it be nice if Nick Xenophon followed the suggestion and registered a political party that contested the Senate in all states and territories next year.

Sadly, Nick describes himself as a party pooper and had such a bad experience with his old running mate in South Australia that he can't bring himself to do it.

Submissions on ASX capital raising rules

Everything seems to have gone a bit quiet after the ASX flagged changing its rules to allow companies capitalised at less than $300 million to do selective placements of up to 25% of their share register each year. The current limit is 15% and even that seems excessive given the way retail investors were chronically diluted during that $100 billion capital raising binge during the GFC.

Here are two relevant links:

ASA submission opposing proposal

Submission by Martin Lawrence and Dean Paatsch from Ownership Matters

Since then we've only had a proposal from the ASX to speed up entitlement offers from 26 days to 16 days, which is perfectly fine. If that means a few more retail shareholders need to get with the program on Bpay applications, then so be it.

Anything which encourages pro-rata raisings ahead of placements is a good thing as the key attraction of selective placements is that they can be done in a couple of days.

Meanwhile, the Australian Shareholders's Association continues to push for new members so click on the image below if you'd like to provide some greater strength in numbers for our ongoing governance campaigns:

Is the Baillieu government going to pull the rug on pokies double rates?

Robert Doyle seems to be on board with the Baillieu Government's controversial plan to pull the rug from under councils which impose special rates on poker machine venues.

Melbourne's Lord Mayor spoke at a Young Liberals function last week and made it clear that he was no fan of councils such as Darebin which have flagged levying higher rates on fast food venues.

I guess it depends on your perspective.

Manningham ratepayers lose about $65 million playing the pokies each year, but the 7 venues were barely paying us $100,000 a year in rates before we introduced a double rates regime this year to fund specific problem gaming programs.

That's an absolute drop in the bucket compared with the State Government which collects more than $1 billion a year in pokies taxes.

If the Liberal are really determined to unwind council differential rates they will have a big fight on their hards because it is farmers who get the biggest discounts and churches are completely exempt.

MAV President Bill McArthur covered this issue in his most recent monthly newsletter when he wrote the following on June 27:

Last week we saw Minister Powell announce legislative changes on the appropriate use of differential rates that will see guidelines released for consultation over a six month period. While we welcome councils' input to this process, it's with some concern I note the Minister's commentary about the need to limit differential rates for pokies venues, which a number of councils have in place to fund gambling harm minimisation programs in their communities. The Age has covered this issue today. And confusingly, the VFF has welcomed this reform despite farmers currently being the largest beneficiary of differential rates and the proposed reforms seek to limit their use.

It would be most disappointing to see the Coalition break its pre-election promise to leave rate setting on pokies venues to councils.

Meanwhile, on the question of pokies reform, it will be interesting to see if Kevin Rudd moves back into The Lodge and takes up this suggestion which Julia Gillard ignored:

As Thomson teeters, Gillard could still embrace $1 poker machine bets
Crikey, Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Finally on the pokies, check out the latest from Paul Bendat's Pokieact website and this package of our past pokies coverage.

And try watching this 30 second anti-pokies ad made by Paul Bendat almost three years ago featuring our daughter Alice, who was 6 at the time:

Australia's soaring public debt and unfunded super

It was very strange to hear Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens make the following statement in 2010: "There is virtually no net public debt in the country at all in contrast to much of the developed world."

The Federal Government's own debt management website puts the gross debt figure at $233 billion and the bond issues are continuing at a rapid rate.

Both sides of politics try to quote a net debt figure which includes the $70 billion held by the Future Fund. But this is blatant double counting because Future Fund reserves are specifically set aside to pay for public service superannuation liabilities which are still more than $60 billion unfunded.

Glenn Stevens was also ignoring soaring state debt which is set to top $250 billion in the next few years.

And then you have issues like unfunded state pension schemes. Victoria's has blown out to $29 billion, which largely related to the hugely generous defined beneft pension for the likes of teachers and police.

Any Victorian copper who retires after more than 20 years of service is entitled to a lump sum equivalent to more than 8 times their final average salary.

No wonder the police union plays so hard to maximise salaries. With a typical veteral copper now earning over $100,000, the average lump sum payout for those exiting is now up near $1 million. Is it any surprise the state can't afford to build critical transport infrastructure.

Victorian $400m unfunded super blowout finally revealed

A comment on 774 ABC Melbourne two months ago was finally picked up by the mainstream media a month later when the following appeared in the back page Chanticleer column of The AFR in late June:

Chanticleer is not sure whether to laugh or cry at the innovative financial solution being dreamed up by the Victorian Government to pay for the explosion in the unfunded pension liability of the state's municipal council workers. The government is considering a special-purpose bond issue to cover a liability that looks like blowing out well beyond the figure of $400 million flagged about a month ago by Manningham City Councillor Stephen Mayne.

There is talk in Melbourne superannuation circles that the deficit is more than $500 million. Vision Super chairman Rob Spence says the deficit is a "big number" but he won't reveal the figure until the actuarial review, dated December 2011, is completed in the next few weeks.

Councillors and officers were finally given a comprehensive briefing at the MAV on July 4 and that led to this accurate story about the $397 million council hit by James Campbell in the Sunday Herald Sun last week.

Manningham has approved its final budget for 2012-13 with full provisions to take the estimated $8 million cash in the forward estimates.

The call will be payable on July 1, 2013, so stand by for new councils right across Victoria to come up with a big rate rises in their first year after the October elections.

Given that the actuarial review occurs within the current financial year and the exact figure will be known before the final audit sign-off for 2011-12, council balance sheets across Victoria are expected to disclose the liability in the current year, even though the cash hit take places in 2013-14 - two years later.

Manningham's pioneering water recycling plant runs into resistance

Both the Brumby and Baillieu Governments in Victoria have committed, through Yarra Valley Water, to a path-finding urban water recycling plant to service the booming high-rise apartment and commercial market in Doncaster Hill.

In a first for Melbourne, the small scale plant is proposed near Koonung Creek in Doncaster and it will service 4000 apartments by 2020 with recycled water delivered via a so-called "third pipe".

Whilst there is a strong support for investment in this sort of sustainable infrastructure on the world's driest continent, some local residents are objecting, as you would expect.

Similar arguments would be expected if that other vital piece of much-needed infrastructure, a heavy rail train service, ever made it to Doncaster.

A well-organised residents group has emerged objecting to the water treatment plant and they did well in attracting 3AW, Channel Seven and Channel 10 to a noisy rally at Manningham's council offices last week. See the Channel Ten story on youtube.

Whilst Manningham's most energetic NIMBY, defeated former councillor Warren Welsh, was involved, there are more credible leaders of this group who know their stuff.

Indeed, either of Fiona or Cameron Scott sound like they would make excellent councillors if they could be persuaded to run at the October elections.

With Fiona and Cameron leading the way, we're in for a lively and informed debate through until the vote at the August council meeting.

Let's just hope they don't allow their group to be side-lined by Captain NIMBY Warren Welsh, who has a long and unsuccessful track record of encouraging residents to take on council decisions at VCAT.

Tales from the talk circuit

About 120 people attended the first ASA Investor Hour in Melbourne last Wednesday which was a good outcome. Thanks to Ian Stoney and all the other ASA volunteers who organised what has been a smooth transition since ASX pulled the plug on these monthly investment talks in capital cities across Australia after 27 years.

One of the new Centro directors even came along for an hour of pontificating about corporate governance.

Elsewhere on the talk circuit, accounting firm Pitcher Partners got their pound of flesh recently.

After speaking at a liquidators conference on the Gold Coast they organised earlier this year, I was booked for another event with financial advisers at Docklands in June.

Having given more than 300 speeches over the years, this one was unprecedented as it involved being on the feet for a staggering 1 hour and 45 minutes.

The organisers later emailed my agent with some nice feedback: "He was terrific – quite provocative, which was good. He had to speak for a REALLY long time! Too long, so I felt very sorry for him, but he handled it well."

Meanwhile, click here to read other feedback after some speeches and click on the image below if you fancy an engagement as the talk circuit helps keep The Mayne Report going as a free service.

Manningham's worst councillors embrace Twitter

It didn't make the print edition but the new cadet reporter on Fairfax's local paper, Kristian Silva, produced this online story last week:

Manningham councillors have taken their personal battles from the council chambers to the Twittersphere, engaging in a series of online tit-for-tat arguments in recent days.

The council's most proficient Twitter user, Stephen Mayne (@MayneReport), has often used his account to discuss his frustrations with the council. But some of Cr Mayne's rivals have now joined the social networking site, and haven't been shy to voice their opinions.

Former mayor Charles Pick (@pickism) described Cr Mayne as ‘‘the Kim Kardashian of kindergarten politics'', while Cr Ivan Reid (@theivanreid) tweeted that Cr Mayne's reaction to an unfavourable political leaflet was reminiscent of a ‘‘bully crying foul when he gets punched''.

Cr Meg Downie (@MegFolieDownie) also accused Cr Mayne of having ‘‘no scruples'' for allegedly using a mobile phone during an exam.

‘‘Manningham will be blessed when he resigns,'' she later tweeted.

Mayne's responses to the public attacks have been blunt.

‘‘I never drove off in mayoral car at 3am with bowser still attached causing lots of damage,'' was his reply to one of Mr Pick's allegations.

He also passed on his ‘‘congrats'' to Cr Downie for her two online followers.

Cr Mayne, a former political adviser, journalist, and shareholder activist has more than 11,000 twitter followers.

This reporter is also on Twitter: @kristian_silva.

Sign up for campaign and governance Tweets

Click on the image above to join more than 11,300 followers on Twitter and here are some of our more recent tweets that may be of interest:

Sunday, July 15

Family First have "done a NSW ALP" & declared Coalition will no longer automatically get future preferences. Follows ALP deal in Melbourne.

After savage attacks on Greens in Saturday Herald Sun, submitted a letter for publication tomorrow pointing out that ALP own 1000+ pokies.

Saturday, July 14

Neither of major candidates are attending the Australian Christian Lobby candidates forum which is about to start. 1st show from DLP & FF.

Congrats to Sen John Faulkner for telling to "put a sock in it". Should also request donation of ill-gotten Murdoch cash to ALP.

Pathetic attack by Shorten's mate Jane Garrett on Greens in The OZ. Why does Vic lefty join crazy NSW Right jihad 7 days before by-election?

Very strong and detailed coverage on scourge of pokies in The Age today. When is News Ltd getting out of Packer's pocket & into this issue?

Just read the Herald Sun and The Australian - endless hysterical propaganda attacks on the Greens. A long way from MEAA codes re balance.

Friday, July 13

Just registered the how to vote card 90 minutes before noon deadline. VEC Melbourne Election manager didn't mind having kids in the meeting.

Interesting Troy Bramston piece on NSW Right players in The OZ. Misses wealth generated and connections to Packer, Murdoch, Lowy & McBank.

That 7.30 story on single mum going to prison over pokies-driven fraud was so incredibly sad. 1st time crook. How can Lib-Lab do nothing?

Good to see the Sunday Herald Sun's James Campbell covered the $400m Victorian local govt superannuation blowout.

Billy Shorten is very quiet at the moment. Is he off doing his deal to be Rudd's Treasurer after Gillard is toppled by crushing Melb defeat?

Wednesday, July 11

If ALP dep leader James Merlino thinks Dr Berhan Ahmed is a "grubby Green stooge", will this former Victorian of year withdraw pref support?

dirt sheets, Family First preference deals and now attacks on your own preference supporters. What are you clowns going to do next?

Incompetent attacks African refugee as a "Green stooge" when he is preferencing ALP. Amazing own goal!

Tuesday, July 10

anyone ever asked u if it's appropriate for ex Coalition staffer like you to be writing all those anti-Green editorials in OZ?

Another very quiet day at 2 early voting centres in Melb by-election. Change law to limit early voting to last week. Tough on cold workers.

Just finished talking to voters & ABC TV's 7.30 out the front of Melb City Council's magnificent East Melb library in George st near MCG.

If the Greens comfortably defeat ALP in Gillard's Melbourne heartland, it may well prove the trigger for a return to Kevin Rudd. Big stakes

Pokies, carbon pricing, bikes, trains, FOI, anti-corruption, gay marriage, euthanasia, republic, donations reform - all Green views I back.

Labor distributed a 2nd dirt sheet in Melb claiming Greens preffed Family First in past. Kanas repeated this rubbish at Docklands last night

Daniel Andrews just told Fran Kelly I was only person talking about ALP dirt sheet. Disowned it, then repeated messaging in it. Disgraceful

Last question of the night and a groovy guy in black at the back has hit Jen Kanas on Family First pref deal saying many G&L voters upset.

Labor candidate Jennifer Kanas just read the same speech delivered in Carlton last night to the 10 or so Docklands residents here tonight.

Reckon there are more candidates and staffers than voters at this candidates forum in Docklands for Melb by election. 9 candidates here.

Monday, July 9

Ex journo and Carlton legend Terry Maher asked first question to Green Cathy Oke on Marrickville Israel frolics. She said Greens different.

Enjoyed giving Karl Bitar & Mark Arbib a negative mention tonight for taking Packer's pokies cash. Also slammed ALP for owning 1000+ pokies.

Labor's Jen Kanas read strong speech. Talked of migrant past, 10 month old son, experience at MCC. Final message: don't waste protest vote.
Lively session on The Drum with Cannane, Chika, Pete. Quick sushi then up to Church of all Nations in Carlton at 7.30pm for candidate forum.

VEC has received 3807 postal vote applications for Melbourne by-election so far. Also expecting more than 6000 at 2 early voting centres.

Andrew Bolt has been kiss of death for Ten. Stock down 0.5c to 47.5c today. The Bolt Report dropped 50,000 viewers in 1 week. Put it down!

From the member edition archive

The Mayne Report goes to more than 15,000 people but if you're a relatively new reader, here are some links to some of the more interesting email editions sent out over the past 18 months:

Melbourne by-election, media shake-ups, ASA speech, gold-plating power, Murdoch, pokies, Manningham, Darebin and Rich List
Friday, July 6, 2012

Murdoch, piracy, AFR, pokies double rate, council super blowout, BoQ rip-off, AGM mini-season and then some
Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Backing Rudd, Lachlan Murdoch, Kew Cottages, Darebin, Manningham, Gunns, Lend Lease and new Rich Listers
Monday, February 20, 2012

Murdoch special, media inquiry, pokies, Manningham, Zara, secretive councillors, Vodafone and then some
Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bumper August edition: Bolt, Gillard, pokies, Murdoch, Gunns, unions, ASA, Manningham and Woolies
Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Special email edition to News Corp analysts ahead of earnings conference call
Wednesday, August 10, 2011

One last trip to New York for Rupert AGM
Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Murdoch, hacking, councillor conduct, ASA, ranking Queensland councillors, Richo and capital raisings
Friday, July 8, 2011

Elected to ASA board, pokies, Rio, Santos, RHG, Hartigan, Manningham, capital raisings and Rich List
Thursday, May 19, 2011

Council super slug, rate rises, Woodside AGM, lost $1000 bet, pokies article and then some
Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rio, Santos and ASA board tilts, councillor misconduct, David Clarke, Woolies, pokies, Rich List, capital raisings and Murdoch
Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mark McInnes, Hanson, Boomers, Manningham, MAV elections, defamation, expense claims and conflicts of interest
Friday, March 25, 2011

Bumper March monthly edition: sued, Rio, Packer, MAV, Cornwall, Rich List, Westfield, AGMs and much more
Monday, March 7, 2011

Meetings chairmen, Fairfax, Murdoch, pokies, VLGA, Santos, Alumina, Rich List, SPPs, Manningham and staffers
Monday, February 7, 2011

Copping a spray from Andrew Bolt

Andrew Bolt is Australia's loudest mainstream media climate change denier and a belligerent bully to boot.

He was in typical form in this blog post 9 days ago responding to some page 1 comments in The Age print edition after Herald Sun editor Simon Pristel was summarily moved on. This is what he wrote:

How low can Mayne go?

I'd love to be thought so powerful, but everyone familiar with the facts here will know how malicious and false is Stephen Mayne's “analysis”, and will wonder afresh why Fairfax and the ABC consider his opinion worth quoting on anything to do with News Ltd:

Mayne said Pristel had lost the support of Herald Sun heavyweights Terry McCrann and Andrew Bolt as well as losing the backing of his mentor, Blunden. ‘'A News Ltd editor must keep on side with the powerful company loyalists like McCrann and Bolt,'' Mayne said.

I normally ignore Mayne's fantasies, although I was once very glad to make an exception. But this falsehood involves a couple of friends, one of whom does not deserve this nasty dig at this particular time.

End of post.

Bolt and McCrann are best mates. McCrann used to rarely write about climate change, but Bolt turned him into an irrational screamer on the issue. Whilst I'm not aware of any particular Bolt run-ins with Pristel, I know for a fact that McCrann was scathing of Pristel's downgrading of the Herald Sun business section, which led to lots of staff turnover.

Indeed, way back in the mid-1990s, Bolt commented to me that incoming editor Peter Blunden was making a mistake by not treating McCrann with suitable deference. This soon changed.

The McCrann halo has well and truly dimmed since those days and he's now regarded as a Bolt-like ranter who only occasionally gets invited to comment away from News Ltd on breaking business stories. Back in the 1980s and 1990s he was the go to man for radio and television.

As Kim Williams tries to fashion a multi-platform operation, he and Peter Blunden have got to decide what to do with this ageing recalcitrant who won't go on twitter, doesn't blog and doesn't do much third party media. He needs to get with the multi-platform world and start working really hard.

Bolt is a completely different story as he drives substantial web traffic and has obviously built a big profile using other media, albeit costing plenty and not delivering much on MTR and Ten.

However, in a cost cutting environment, the numbers will clearly be crunched on whether Bolt and McCrann are indulgences that can still be afforded, especially all those Bolt legal bills down the years.

Bolt will fight hard to protect his best mate, but I wouldn't be surprised if someone like Alan Kohler was slotted in to replace McCrann once The Australian ceases being printed daily after News Corp's publishing demerger next year and the paper's 50th birthday in 2014.

Meanwhile, here are some earlier Crikey stories on the lamentable Andrew Bolt:

Andrew Bolt fails to disclose association with anti-pokies campaign
Crikey, Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Mayne: it all comes back to Bolt's Gillard resignation prediction
Crikey, Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Andrew Bolt and Mark Day reveal how Lachlan Murdoch is breaching cross-media laws
Crikey, Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mayne family news

After two weeks of holidays, the kids are back at school this morning. That was a very busy couple of weeks!

Paula Piccinini, the better qualified and harder working partner in our wonderful marriage, has recently started a job working 7 days a fortnight as a professional mediator in family disputes.

The move out of straight legal work as a barrister followed the successful and sensible Howard Government move to compell and fund much more mediation before the expensive and adversarial lawyers are dragged in.

It's fair to say Paula is fairly busy these days considering she's also a director of the RACV, President of the primary school council where our three kids attend and a director of a domestic violence service provider.

As a household we are now juggling quite a few part-time directorships and governance gigs across a range of fields.

Local government councillors are effectively directors and I'm also on the board of a Manningham aged care provider, plus the Australian Shareholders' Association.

Paula completed the Australian Institute of Company Directors course 5 years ago and I did it earlier this year, so we hopefully know what we're doing in this space.

Directorships work well with kids because you can plan around the commitments and also effectively work from home.

It also means you can simultaneously work quite hard and see plenty of the kids. I was constantly being kicked out of the office these past two weeks, but with school back today there was a clear run late last night and this morning to produce everything above.

Hope you enjoyed it and we'll try to squeeze one more special edition out before Saturday's crucial by-election.

As for the kids, it was quite a laugh taking Laura and Alice into a meeting at the VEC on Friday to register the how-to-vote cards with election manager Chris Browne.

Laura, our eldest, is playing both club and school basketball and her sister Alice, 9, also plays in the school team which is badly coached by yours truly. Thanks to Bulleen Boomers and Australian legend Michelle Timms for lining that one up.

Philip turns 8 in October and is loving club basketball every Saturday and competition soccer each Sunday. Laura has also just joined a competition soccer team mid-season.

With Laura in grade 5 we're getting down to business with secondary school selection, but that may be influenced by the outcome of future contested elections.

That's all for now.

Do ya best, Stephen Mayne

* The Mayne Report is a multi-media governance website published by Stephen Mayne with occasional email editions. To unsubscribe from the emails click here.

Authorised by: Paula Piccinini, 205 William St, Melbourne 3000.