Bumper edition: Referendum, Melbourne reforms, Gonski to ASA, Herald Sun, Matthew Guy, Citizenville, Fishermans Bend, Cr Downie, remuneration, Gellibrand and Briffa

April 22, 2013

Dear 16,000+ Mayne Report Readers,

Greetings for the first time since our last email edition on March 1 following the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) elections. We've got plenty of juicy material. If you'd rather not receive these supposedly monthly email newsletters, click here to unsubscribe. If you like them, tell your friends to sign up for free. And here is the URL for this bumper edition. Feel free to give it a push on twitter.

Councils set for constitutional recognition

The Australian has an exclusive front page story today (pay) revealing that Julia Gillard is set to keep her promise by having a referendum on constitutional recognition for local government in conjunction with the September 14 Federal election.

And it's great news that Tony Abbott has reportedly promised to support it, securing the all important bipartisan agreement that is needed to update Australia's most important governing document for the first time in decades.

City of Melbourne made a late formal entry to the debate last Tuesday when we unanimously passed the following motion:

That the Future Melbourne Committee:

1. notes that the Commonwealth Parliament's Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Local Government has recommended "that a referendum on the financial recognition of local government be put to Australian voters at the 2013 federal election";

2. reaffirms that financial recognition of local government in the Constitution is vital for the City of Melbourne (and all Australian municipalities) if it is to serve its citizens well by governing with financial sustainability;

3. agrees with the Joint Select Committee that a successful referendum will rely on cross-party support at the Commonwealth level as well as the support of State Governments;

4. therefore calls on the Victorian State Government to withdraw its opposition to any referendum on the question of financial recognition of local government; and

5. requests the CEO to acquaint the Victorian Local Government Minister of this resolution prior to her meeting with her State and Commonwealth counterparts in coming days.

With Greens, Liberal, Labor and independent councillors all on board in Victoria's capital city council, it would be surprising if Premier Dennis Napthine stuck with Ted Baillieu's head in the sand approach of opposing constitutional recognition.

Premier Napthine has made a good start as an "action man" Premier who gets things done. This issue is another easy win for him to differentiate his Premiership from his disengaged conservative predecessor.

If this gets up it will be Queensland Premier and former Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman who deserves the most credit as he made interventions at key times to generate enough momentum from the conservative side of politics to convince Julia Gillard that it is worth rolling the dice.

Sacked Federal Local Government Minister is the other interesting player in all this. The PM doesn't want to give the leader of the Government-side opposition another platform to attack her on.

Indeed, if the PM needs to give Crean a job to keep him busy, he should be put in charge of running elements of the "for" campaign, demonstrating those all important consensus skills of the much-loved Hawke-Keating era.

All going well at the City of Melbourne

After almost 6 months on Melbourne City Council, everything is humming along nicely. We've got a good power balance with plenty of debate but not too much aggro.

A similar and quite detailed tale was told in this December 28, 2012 email edition after the first two months.

There was a bit more in the February 19 edition but much has happened since then.

We're making a steady stream of governance and disclosure reforms which have included the following so far:

# The public now have 4 separate opportunities each month to ask unscripted questions in front of all 11 councillors. These occur in 15 minute slots at the beginning and the end of Future Melbourne Committee meetings which occur on the first two Tuesdays of each month at 5.30pm. No other Australian council has gone this far on public questions and we also allow 3 minute oral submissions on any item which comes before FMC. The tricky question now is whether we can further open up the actual full council meeting which is held on the last Tuesday of each month in the chamber, which is just hopeless for public participation when compared with the adjacent committee room where FMC meets.

# After having a record number of confidential items in 2011-12 (44% of council resolutions and 33% of FMC resolutions), this is already turning around with the flipping of the tender arrangement whereby the default position is now to do it in public. However, there will still be occasional confidential tender items, especially where officers need to frankly assess losing bidders or seek authority to negotiate with the favoured tenderer. I've only now started to realise that City of Manningham's default position of fully delegating officers to approve tenders provided they were within budget was not particularly good governance. Besides, the Local Government Act says you should not commit to major contracts beyond the current budget. Here's hoping Manningham will make that change and start approving many more tenders in open council meetings. Maybe they should move to fortnightly council meetings to facilitate this as Melbourne meets publicly 3 times a month.

# Full audio recordings of council meetings are now permanently available and you can listen here to the rather interesting debate at the March meeting. Full website access to recordings of FMC meetings will start in May following the unanimous passing of this resolution at the March council meeting.

# We've agreed to adopt all the recommendations after an independent review of our board appointment processes related to subsidiaries Queen Victoria Market and Citywide. Former Kennett government minister Mark Birrell is the new Citywide chair and former Victorian Labor Premier John Brumby was also added to the board last year, following a process which was criticised by the independent consultant as you can see here in the body of the report attached to item 6.4 . Future processes won't see councillors suggesting names without an external head hunter involved or deliberating over appointments in councillor only sessions.

Opening up visibility around hyper-active planning minister Matthew Guy

Given all that is happening on the planning front in Melbourne, arguably the most important disclosure move so far was passed unanimously on March 26 in the chamber. Check out the last piece of public business that night - item 7.3 - or listen to the end of the audio. Check out this Fairfax coverage.

The effect of this motion will be to publicly line up all developer permits over major projects issued by successive state planning ministers since 2008 against the formal submissions by the City of Melbourne. Unlike all other Victorian councils, State Planning Ministers have declared themselves responsible for all City of Melbourne developments above 25,000 square metres for the best part of 20 years.

But as former San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom argues so persuasively in his fabulous new book Citizenville, it's no good releasing truckloads of government data without making sure it is useful and placed in context.

That's why this was the most important aspect of the planning disclosure item:

disclose whether a proposal has been commenced or completed and briefly describe any substantive material differences between each of the City of Melbourne submissions and the Ministers' decisions referred to in paragraphs 1.1 and 1.2;

In other words, our planning officers will sweep aside the planning gobbledygook and 6 pages of competing conditions and instead soberly and briefly summarise where the State and the City had a different view. Down the track, this will enable all stakeholders to thank or criticise the relevant party depending on whether the development ended up proving to be a success or not.

Matthew Guy had the numbers - not any more

Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy is believed to have narrowly had the numbers over Denis Napthine in the Liberal party room on the afternoon when former Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu resigned.

But after sensibly deciding not to contest the leadership against his old boss from 2002 (Guy was chief of staff to Napthine when he lost the Liberal leadership), he's subsequently had his wings clipped somewhat by a new Premier who, courtesy of a strong performance so far, now has the substantial backing of the party room ahead of any other contender.

There is little doubt that Matthew Guy's supporters were actively destabilising Ted Baillieu, but with the change made, the ambitious young turk has now been put back in his box by the new Premier.

For starters, the appointment of Michael O'Brien as Treasurer put him in the box seat to present as the most likely leader from the next generation of talented Liberal MPs.

Secondly, the Premier announced a departmental restructure on April 9 which saw Mr Guy emerge as one of three junior ministers to Transport Minister Terry Mulder in a new super-department called the Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure.

Who will clean up the mess in Fishermans Bend?

Thirdly, things are starting to come to a head over the Planning Minister's favourite project, renewal of the enormous Fishermans Bend industrial precinct. The current situation is a complete shemozzle with the Minister's massive rezoning and intrusive intervention on the City of Port Phillip's planning powers last July seeing him hit by an avalanche of big developer applications (said to be around 40) when there is no detailed structure plan in place. The City of Port Phillip and the Minister have utterly contradictory visions for Fishermans Bend which is partly why this debate suddenly emerged about City of Melbourne becoming the Responsible Authority.

As the Lord Mayor quite rightly argues, we don't want another Docklands where developers negotiated directly and privately with successive state governments and we finished up with lots of big buildings and a $300 million backlog when it came to social infrastructure. You need long term plans and a transparent rule book that everyone understands before committing to such a massive transformation.

The Lord Mayor's extremely blunt initial motion directly proposing a municipal boundary change making City of Melbourne responsible for Fishermans Bend was initially deferred on April 9 and then watered down to a more palatable version on April 16 which noted the deluge of planning applications before the Minister and called for these to be handled locally. The draft minutes with the full unanimously supported motion are not yet on our website, but Port Phillip certainly won't find them offensive.

I've been impressed watching Robert Doyle perform when under pressure in a tight vote. He usually pulls a rabbit out of hat and on Fishermans Bend he reacted to the very strong Port Phillip opposition to possible "offensive" boundary changes, by quoting from a submission they made almost a decade ago which called for an expansion of their territory at the expense of the City of Melbourne.

Only about 200 residents live in the Fishermans Bend industrial precinct and it delivers less than 5% of Port Phillip's rate revenue. Given the great work that City of Melbourne has done on urban renewal precincts such as Arden-McCauley and City North, I can certainly see the logic in tapping into those skills and capabilities to deliver a sensible outcome on Fishermans Bend which is somewhere between the minimalist vision of Port Phillip and the obsession with enormous buildings that Matthew Guy has.

Gonski joins chairs panel at Australian Shareholders' Association national conference

This email went out to ASA members on Friday afternoon but anyone can register for what will be a cracking conference so feel free to get on board.

As Chairman of Coca Cola Amatil, Chair of the Future Fund, the Chair of the Federal Government Review of the Funding of Schools in Australia and involved as a director or chair in many other corporate, government and community boards, too numerous to list, David Gonski's resume is unquestionably impressive.

We are therefore delighted that Mr Gonski will attend the ASA Conference and will participate in the "Grill the Chairs" panel to be held from 1.30 to 2.30pm on Wednesday, 8 May, with Stephen Mayne leading the discussion.

With just over two weeks to go there is still time to register to attend the ASA Conference to be held at the Sheraton on the Park, Sydney from Monday, 6 May to Wednesday, 8 May. If you've not yet registered we encourage you to do so. Please refer to the details below.

The programme offers something for all investors and by attending you will gain a wealth of information on a range of investment topics, as well as meet highly regarded industry experts and other investors.

DATE: 6th - 8th May 2013

VENUE: Sheraton on the Park, 161 Elizabeth Street, Sydney

CONFERENCE PROGRAMME: A fantastic line up of speakers click here to view conference programme.

OPTIONAL CONFERENCE DINNER: Sydney Harbour Dinner Cruise for Tuesday, 7 May - spaces are limited so be sure to get in early - only $99pp includes canapes, welcome drinks, a seated 3 course dinner and beverages.

A MASTERCLASS IN PORTFOLIO CONSTRUCTION: Workshop to be held at the Sheraton on Thursday, 9 May. The $85pp fee includes lunch, refreshments and handouts.

TO REGISTER to ensure your place at the conference book online now or call the office on 1300 368 448. Alternatively download the conference flier and post to the Australian Shareholders Association PO Box 519 Chatswood NSW 2057 or fax this to the office on 02 9411 1505. Please note cheques are to be made payable to: ‘Australian Shareholders' Association Ltd.'

We hope to see you there.

Silvana Eccles
National Operations Manager
Australian Shareholders Association

Ballarat loses the plot on pokies

Whilst most Victorian councils are working hard to limit the damage caused by poker machines, the City of Ballarat has failed its community by moving to make it easier for pokies venues to operate in the CBD.

Why on earth would you open up strip shopping areas to pokies, especially the CBD? See this article in The Ballarat Courier.

The relevant portfolio holder, Cr Hudson, ignored evidence presented of the last 5 years of poker machine gambling in Ballarat that clearly shows small suburban clubs do the least harm.

Meanwhile, Pokieact's influential Paul Bendat is already focusing on key Victorian marginal seats as part of a wider push for the state government to limit poker machine bets to $1 per spin and losses to no more than $120 per hour.

He argues that after the Brumby Government's auction give-away, the wealthier owners can certainly handle a progressive tax on venues where gamblers lose the most. These venues should pay more tax. Victoria suffers the worst problem gambling of any Australian state. Yet past and present Victorian policy is failing Victoria. These sorts of reforms to reduce harm are cost free and evidence based.

The Productivity Commission recommended that poker machines be reconfigured so that the maximum bet would be $1 per spin. Coupled with simple programming, gambling losses could be limited to a maximum of $120 an hour.

The reform is called “1-120”; $1 each button push and a loss limit of no more than $120 per hour. At present, in Victoria, a gambler at a suburban poker machine venue can lose over $5,000 an hour. At Crown Casino, a poker machine gambler can lose over $10,000 an hour.
The Productivity Commission found that 1-120 would target problem gamblers. Over 80% of bets wagered by recreational gamblers were under $1 per spin. Very few recreational gamblers would be affected by this reform.

But State Governments have consistently opposed this reform because they figured the less money lost on machines, the less money they would get in poker machine taxes.

A study by Dr Charles Livingstone from Monash University has created a model where companies operating high loss gambling venues (like Woolworths and Crown Casino) will bear the cost of these reforms.

The Victorian Competition & Efficiency Commission concluded that the social and economic costs of problem gambling in Victoria was likely to be between $1.5 billion and $2.7 billion in 2010-11. This compares poorly with $1.15 billion set to be earned through
Victorian poker machine taxes. The impacts associated with problem gambling include health and emotional problems, family breakdown, financial hardship, gambling-related crime and suicide. The Productivity Commission found that poker machine gambling does not create jobs.

Finally, 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 3 years ago featuring our daughter Alice, who was 6 at the time:

Is it time for David Crawford, 69, to hang up the boots?

The Australian produced this story last week after Lend Lease belatedly tendered out its audit contract which has been held by KPMG for 55 years.

Such a long stint is a bad look, especially when Lend Lease chairman David Crawford is a former national chairman of KPMG.

After 12 years on the Lend Lease board (10 as chairman) and almost 20 years on the BHP board, I reckon it's time Crawford retired from the public company scene.

His old mate Don Argus has shuffled off and so should he. If you'd like to know more about why, check out this hard hitting but absolutely factual Crikey story from 2011.

Herald Sun fails its readers with silence on Abbott's crazy anti-train bias

The utterly biased and relentless Murdoch press in Melbourne, Sydney and nationally through The Australian has played a big role in destroying Julia Gillard's standing with the electorate, such that Tony Abbott is well placed to win control of both houses in the coming September 14 Federal election.

Sure, there have been plenty of own goals and the government's anti-business, union-driven, big spending philosophy doesn't lend itself to long-term success.

And with Tony Abbott positively fawning over Rupert Murdoch at the recent IPA 70th birthday dinner, it is clear the Murdoch press will have substantial influence over an Abbott government, just like the way New York-based News Corp effectively forced John Howard to blindly back the folly of George W Bush's Iraq invasion.

This would be fine if News Corp used its unprecedented media reach in Australia to argue for good policy prescriptions, but too often they use this position of power to become partisan political players who turn a blind eye to bad policy.

For instance, News Corp has never really done anything to improve Australia's campaign finance disclosure laws which are still the weakest in the western world after John Howard's disgraceful changes.

Another classic example was Tony Abbott's refusal to get behind funding urban rail infrastructure when he recently declared that the Commonwelath has ''no history of funding urban rail and I think it's important that we stick to our knitting''.

The Age suitably demolished this position in a strong editorial but the Herald Sun has been silent, not even reporting the comments in a meaningful way.

State Liberal governments all over Australia are hanging out for federal funding of urban rail projects. Tony Abbott's road bias is utterly ridiculous and unsustainable and it should be consigned to the dust bin of history by a short sharp News Ltd campaign.

Bizarrely, the Herald Sun launched a page 1 campaign for infrastructure funding today but still haven't made the point that their man Tony Abbott is the biggest problem.

Without Federal funding for the all important Metro 1 rail tunnel between South Kensington and South Yarra, we won't get the network benefits that would allow subsequent rail additions to Doncaster, the airport and Rowville.

Both Infrastructure Australia and the Victorian Government have Metro 1 listed as their top project for Melbourne.

Abbott should untie his $1.5 billion promise for the East-West road tunnel and leave it up to the Victorian government to decide where to spend this Federal grant.

How the Herald Sun can run an advertising campaign saying "We're for Victoria" and not hold this Sydney-based politician to account on his rail funding ban is just extraordinary.

To Herald Sun editor Damon Johnston and his boss Peter Blunden, please stop this madness and get your man Tony Abbott on the Metro 1 train before it is too late.

Daniel Petre lays into James Packer

There used to be a time when a cover story in Fairfax Media's NSW and Victorian newspaper insert, Good Weekend, had a big impact.

The April 13 cover story by Jane Cadzow on James Packer was an interesting read and certainly not a puff piece. However, it sunk like a stone despite various very interesting quotes and insights, which probably reflects the cosy relationships at the moment between Kerry Stokes, James Packer and the Murdoch family.

Former Packer executive Daniel Petre certainly let fly in terms that I've not seen before from someone who was well inside the Packer bunker. Try these quotes for size from Petrie in Good Weekend:

"People need to critically review his (Barangaroo) PR campaign for what it is...The most important thing in his life is money. Number two is power, and he gets power through money."

"He does whatever he wants to do it. Everyone else has to fit around him, which is a very strange way to live your life."

"It (discussing problem gambling) ends up in an apoplectic tirade...He's incredibly defensive about any criticism at any level."

"James can be very physically intimidating and behave in a bullying manner which is totally unnecessary."

Differential rates, Crown and reconciliation

As a former gossip columnnist and someone who has given the Packer family stick pretty consistently over 15 years, I was interested to read in Good Weekend that SMH gossip columnist Andrew Hornery was told to "get the f*** out of here" by a crimson-faced James Packer after being invited inside the Crown tent at Derby Day last year.

Crown extended an invitation to all City of Melbourne councillors for the launch of its Reconciliation Action Plan last month and I went along and found myself sitting in the second row with an assigned seat.

After bumping into James in the foyer of the Crown Metropol, there were no expletives, just a smile, a quick hand-shake and some directions to the launch at Crown College.

Newly installed Premier Dennis Napthine and Gaming Minister (now departed) Andrew McIntosh, were both in the front row along with Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell.

The speeches were all good, including from James and Dennis, and I've never seen a better Welcome to Country.

Call me a cynic, but a couple of weeks later, we got this announcement from Jeanette Powell pulling the plug on differential rates being applied to pokies venues. This mandated tax cut for certain pokies venues is a broken Coalition promise from the 2010 election campaign and will cost councils about $1 million in 2013-14.

Crown is reportedly the biggest rate-payer in the City of Melbourne and applying the maximum 4 times differential would have cost it approximately $20 million a year in additional rates, not that there would have been political support for such an excessive slug.
All this happened at a time when you'd think the Victorian government would be concerned about Packer's plans to divert high-rollers from Melbourne to the new Crown Sydney at Barangaroo, assuming the crony capitalism on display in NSW delivers him the necessary approvals.

The craven cave-in to the pokies industry was given a solid spray in The Age, but the Murdoch press were predictably sympathetic to the Packer interests. It's hard not to be cynical when News Ltd's Victorian editorial boss Peter Blunden spent the Grand Prix in the Crown tent.

Presumably, Blunden wasn't invited to the government's tent after his paper's appalling treatment of Ted Baillieu, which included massive use of unauthorised recordings of private conversations by the discredited former policeman, Tristan Weston.

Should ASA have a policy on board size and diversity?

The Australian Shareholders' Association is currently reviewing its policies and we hope to have a revised version in place by July 1.

Diversity and board size are interesting questions as we work through the issues.

My personal view is that boards should have a minimum of 5 directors and a maximum of 11 and companies should aim to have at least 2 male and 2 female directors.

There have been numerous studies which show that companies and indeed countries which have a higher level of female participation in civil society tend to perform better in the long term.

ASA is opposed to binding quotas and would certainly never vote against a male director on a board because the company had less than 2 female directors.

However, board diversity is a form of risk management, especially given the history of male dominated boards pursuing aggressive acquisitions which ultimately destroy shareholder value.

In other board related policy questions, I reckon a chair should ideally live in the city where the CEO resides and the company is based. However, geographic, age and ethnic diversity of boards are also important. You don't like seeing insular boards full of people who are all members of the same golf club or went to the same schools and universities.

Whilst a director should bring a particular skill-set to a board, companies should also aim to have multiple directors with direct relevant industry experience. For instance, Rio Tinto currently has no NEDs with a mining background.

Independence and diversity are important but ultimately the cohesion of the team and the relevant skills they bring on strategic planning and risk management are the keys to success.

One thing we do know at this point is that ASA's future voting recommendations on directors will be less influenced by so-called workload considerations. In the past, excessive workloads have been the biggest driver of against recommendations. In the future it will be performance, tenure and independence questions which receive a higher weighting.

Getting the balance right on remuneration policies

Here is a draft forward to ASA's reworked remuneration policies. It won't see the light of day in this form and what matters is the detail not the history. However, we will definitely be sticking with our hard line on long term incentive schemes being measured over at least 4 years rather than the 3 year term that still applies at many companies:

Executive remuneration at ASX-listed companies got out of hand in Australia over the 15 year period leading up to the GFC and the subsequent introduction of the two strikes regime in 2011.

The arrival of highly paid US CEO imports such as Bob Joss (Westpac), Paul Anderson (BHP), George Trumbull (AMP) and Sol Trujillo (Telstra) led to an Americanisation of the Australian pay system, with substantial increases in quantum and a pronounced shift to short and long-term bonuses, often paid in equity.

However, shareholders were also given greater tools to deal with this explosion in pay. There was the expansion in disclosure in the 1990s, the non-binding vote on the remuneration report in 2004 and finally the two strikes regime in 2011 after a Productivity Commission inquiry.

ASA concern about spiking pay peaked in 2011 when we recommended against approximately 80% of the remuneration reports we reviewed. This fell to approximately 50% during the main 2012 AGM season.

We noted a marked improvement in 2012 and this restatement of ASA remuneration policy in 2013 reflects our views after carefully considering the pit-falls of the past 15 years, as well as the more encouraging recent trends.

Former Hobsons Bay mayor Tony Briffa spends up big, then settles with grovelling apology

The Mayne Report is proud of its efforts in holding poorly performing factional cliques to account in various councils over the years.

The October 2012 council elections across Victoria saw three ruling cliques reduced to solitary isolated members after retirements and important defeats.

Darebin's gang of five became one and we're still waiting for the Ombudsman to tell us what they got up to.

Manningham's gang of five became one and you can read all about their solitary survivor Meg Downie below.

And Hobsons Bay also saw its ruling faction of four reduced to just one person, former mayor Tony Briffa.

Briffa was set for a long hearing at VCAT appealing an adverse Councillor Conduct Panel finding when he settled "on the steps" after wracking up legal bills of more than $100,000.

Check out the full grovelling apology made by Briffa to the women he unfairly attacked. Well done to journalist and Hobsons Bay councillor Peter Hemphill for seeing this matter through to an appropriate conclusion.

Firing up our Youtube channel again

When The Mayne Report first launched in 2007 we were posting daily videos on our Youtube channel. Alas, the cost and time of in-house video production, plus the lack of any revenue, made this model unviable. Besides, daily videos wasn't necessarily the best way to campaign for better corporate governance through shareholder activism.

In the end, it made more sense to channel our efforts into appearing on mainstream media video platforms. People watch Q&A, Inside Business and The Project.

However, when you look back at all the video we've got spanning our own productions, one-off interviews, profiles or lengthy interviews such as Nine's Sunday program or ABC TV's Talking Heads, the regular spot on Sky's Business View and webcasts of AGMs, it turns out we've got a rather large library of material, some of which is now available on our Youtube channel.

Some of the playlists on our video site including the following:

11 rounds with Rupert Murdoch

A few rounds with the Millionaires at Macquarie Group

Bye bye Babcock & Brown

The pokies

Gender equity and media trustworthiness in Intelligence Squared debates

Skewering Col Allan on Channel Nine's Sunday program

Relief all round in Gellibrand as Herald Sun went missing in action

I've never met Dr Tim Watts, the endorsed Labor candidate for Gellibrand, but several people I know have and they all reckon he'll make an excellent Federal MP.

Senator Steven Conroy isn't everyone's cup of tea but he deserves support for opposing his factional mate Bill Shorten who wanted to parachute Kimberley Kitchings, wife of notorious Vexnews publisher Andrew Landeryou, into one of the safest Labor seats in Australia.

At one level you have to feel sorry for Shorten who is obviously being stood over by Landeryou, one of the sleaziest and destructive characters ever produced by the ALP.

Landeryou is the Victorian ALP's version of the mob - do what he wants or he'll make up defamatory material and publish it online. I've copped more than most over the years and his presence discourages many good people from putting their hand up for public office.
The scariest thing about Labor's Victorian culture is the way seemingly credible people fall into Landeryou's orbit. What the hell has Bill Shorten been doing all these years using someone as unethical as Landeryou as a factional enforcer? He'll never become Labor leader until he publicly disowns the Landeryou way of politics which was fully on display in Gellibrand where Kitching's team even admitted to making a spoof video depicting Conroy as Hitler. And good on Steve Bracks for standing up to the Kitching-Landeryou campaign as Crikey revealed during the heat of the battle. Other good Labor people such as Nicola Roxon and Joan Kirner did likewise.

Where Landeryou goes, filth and dirty pool follows, so was anyone surprised that the Gellibrand preselection contest quickly descended into the sewer?

Even the Herald Sun's Victorian political reporter James Campbell ran a dual operation with his great mate Landeryou to engineer the police investigation which led to minor charges against three reporters from The Age for accessing the ALP's widely utilised and Privacy Act exempt voter data base for the purpose of a one-off public interest news story. Maybe this explains why the Herald Sun failed to cover the Gellibrand preselection properly.

Media Watch host Jonathan Holmes demolished Campbell's disgraceful comparisons of what The Age reporters did did with his own company's UK phone hacking criminality in this column back in 2011.

I've never met Campbell but am appalled the Herald Sun, under Rupert favourite Peter Blunden, has handed over its Victorian political commentary to someone who associates with former bankrupt Landeryou, whose own application to join the MEAA journos' union was summarily rejected. Is Campbell a journalist or a factional thug? As a former Liberal staffer, he shouldn't have been given the sensitive political gig in the first place.

All this speaks volumes about the culture of News Corp and Rupert Murdoch's long history of hiring and sticking by colourful characters.

There was even a gossip item recently that Rebekah Brooks, leader of the disgraced Wapping dirty pool team for many years, was staying at Lachlan Murdoch's mansion during her recent visit to Sydney. Says it all really.

The Mayne Report Rich List

BRW magazine does a great job with its various Australian Rich Lists but we've broadened their efforts to track any Australian who has ever been worth more than $10 million. We've got more than 1500 names with those who've fallen back below $10 million now italicised. Below are our latest new or updated entries:

Graham Crouch: mining entrepreneur from Perth who in 2013 paid $25 million for one of Rick Stowe's properties in WA.

Manningham countback fails to remove worst councillor

Manningham's worst councillor, Meg Downie, has sparked disappointment in our household after she survived a court-ordered countback.

When the result came through, the charming Cr Downie sent me one of her classic post-lunch texts: "Good triumphed over evil. The people got who they wanted and deserved. You are a nobody and a three time loser."

Paula got something similar. Cr Downie describing herself as "good" is just the latest example of self-delusion.

After all, she was only re-elected on the preferences of three different candidates in the Mullum Mullum ward with court convictions, plus another couple of ignorant first time candidates with an undeveloped antennae for undesirables.
One of the preference providers was ineligible to stand due to serious recent convictions and this story explains why a Magistrate ordered the recount with those tainted "Destination Downie" votes eliminated.

It's more out of sorrow than anger that Cr Downie tales are retailed but she doesn't know when to stop, even emailing various councillors inflammatory material during the recent MAV elections.

So, let's return serve, with a little bit of interest.

Cr Downie is such a negative and disruptive councillor that she single-handedly almost caused an Australian Local Government Women's Association conference to be cancelled in 2012.

Manningham was hosting the conference but it only went ahead when the committee told her the event would be cancelled if she didn't resign and undertake not to attend. Thankfully, she quit to save the city embarrassment.

There are many similar tales and I was surprised she was re-elected last October after the scandal of her record-breaking $25,000 conferences claim during the last term, something which was only revealed after her long campaign against councillor expense disclosure was
defeated in the final weeks of the 4 year term.

One other pathetic performance came when she requested a mediation last year and then cancelled 10 minutes before it was due to start in the CBD without even a phone call to the other party. That wasted another $1200 of ratepayer funds and she never offered to reimburse the council.

She was party to a blizzard of complaints about me to the Chief Municipal Inspector and letters have now come back on all of them saying there are absolutely no concerns.

In terms of embarrassing chamber performances, she once put up a motion demanding that all councillor names appear on a plaque at the opening of the new MC2 community hub on Doncaster Hill. When she went on holiday, she helped herself to free use of the council pound for her dogs, as if it was a commercial kennels available for public use. She later paid and controversially blamed an officer for encouraging her to take these liberties.

Another time she tried to end the long-standing fire-works at Manningham's popular Carols by Candlelight event by reading out a cringeworthy poem during debate about a mythical dog which died of fright. She wasn't able to get through it without bursting into tears.

This might all sound a bit trivial, but she also happily jumps into the sewer of Andrew Landeryou's Vexnews, seemingly oblivious about his notorious background of financial shenanigans and political sleaze.

If shareholder activist types want to understand what I've been dealing with, imagine if Jack Tilburn was suddenly elected onto the board of a public company. Councils are the only institution which face the problem of people getting elected who hate the joint and want to wreak havoc over perceived grievances.

If people at the City of Melbourne want to try and understand what she's like, just imagine if Tony Slander Haar was elected onto council. There's lots of shouting, a deluge of demanding emails, petty complaints about who wasn't invited to what. And it get worse after a liquid lunch or dinner, which happens all to often. Quaffing wines at council functions was the prime reason she wracked up such a huge taxi bill in her first two years before some adverse press engineered by then mayor Geoff Gough prompted more restraint.

The poor officers of Manningham just have to sit there and take it from Cr Downie and her coterie of nutty advisers, but I don't mind telling a few home truths.

The other four members of her self-serving "Gang of Five" at Manningham are all safely off the council, so she's now contained with no hope of ever being mayor or even getting the numbers on her various vendettas.

And the community knows she's bad news. Competent and cordial councillors like Geoff Gough and current mayor Jennifer Yang were re-elected last year with 5240 and 5527 primary votes respectively in the Heide and Koonung wards last October.

This is how the top 6 ranked in Mullum Mullum ward:

Paul McLeish: 2717
Paula Piccinini: 2574
Sophy Galbally: 2404
Meg Downie: 2124
Bob Beynon: 2106
Michelle Pini: 2032

Despite being the only one of the 3 Mullum Mullum incumbents contesting and claiming to have worked incredibly hard over 4 years, the junkets queen only managed an underwhelming 10.23% of the vote, but she staggered over the line courtesy of the "court convictions faction", donkey flows and other low-rating preference providers.

She might want to reflect on why none of the other top 6 candidates would exchange preferences with her and why all those with court convictions gravitated towards her "I hate the council" agenda.

The people certainly didn't get "who they wanted and deserved", as she now claims. And it's disgraceful that she described popular alternative candidates such as Bob Beynon and Michelle Pini as "evil".

The recount saw my better half Paula Piccinini eliminated with just 4 others in the field and her distribution determined the election of all three winners, leaving respected former mayor Bob Beynon stranded.

We were horrified to discover that Downie collected more than 600 preferences from Paula. On reflection, that was largely the donkey vote, plus those who were keen to support female candidates or policies which promote dogs, which Paula did in her election materials.

Paula only ran to try and save the next council from the pain of a 4 year sentence with Meg Downie. It failed as a strategy but the two other successful candidates in the Mullum Mullum ward appear to be sensible and competent. The new Manningham council appears to be running well under mayor Jennifer Yang and recently appointed CEO Joe Carbone.

I'm all for promoting female councillors as this recent MAV special edition demonstrates, but all councillors need some basic competencies and civil capacities, something the endlessly abusive Cr Downie doesn't have. She was giving all female councillors a bad name, which is why she was booted off the ALGWA Victorian committee and told not to attend their conference when her own council at Manningham was host.

Sign up for campaign and governance Tweets

Click on the image above to join more than 15500 followers on Twitter. We are regularly dropping out observations about journalism, politics, breaking stories, local government and shareholder activism. If you want a laugh, check our Manningham's worst councillor https://twitter.com/MegFolieDownie with her mammoth 9 followers after 10 months on Twitter.

From the member edition archive

The Mayne Report goes to more than 16,000 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 five years.


Backing Rudd, Lachlan Murdoch, Bob Brown media debate, Manningham governance, Gunns, Darebin, Lend Lease and St Kilda AGM appearance
Monday, February 20, 2012

The OZ goes mad, Murdoch piracy, AFR, pokies double rate, Gina unfit for Ten, council super blowout, BoQ rip-off, power speech and AGM mini-season
Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Murdoch special, media inquiry, pokies, Manningham win, Zara, secretive Shortenite councillors and a Vodafone take-down
Thursday, September 15, 2011

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


Election wash-up, Mayne Report strategic review, Manningham, Ten, Gina, Falloon for Fairfax, Orica AGM, ABC year-ender, Cornwall, Rich List and then some
Friday, December 17, 2010

Woolies anti-pokies campaign speech, Manningham mayor boxes on, campaigning for women, Bob Brown, pokies forum, HTVs, Rich List and then some
Thursday, November 18, 2010

Paperlinx, Packer, Murdoch, Manningham, pokies, Rich ex wives, foreign takeovers and much more
Saturday, October 23, 2010

DJs, legislate women on boards, ex Lib goes no pokies, preferences, Pratt-Shorten, Labor's debt, AG's report, Manningham council audio and then some
August 3, 2010

Director rankings, Rio, Westfield, New Matilda, MAP, Manningham, Paatsch, state election, Darebin, Moreland, rich list, pokies and much more
June 9, 2010

Political donations, Stokes, Westfield tower, Richard Colless, Manningham nursing home, state debt, Rich List, Grand Prix and more
February 23, 2010


Woolies, Higgins, Manningham, upcoming elections, Fairfax, Centro, Rich List, Rams, Fitzie and much more
December 6, 2009

Seven AGM, crazy Perth visit, Fairfax, Telstra, Transfield, capital raisings and much more
November 9, 2009

News Corp AGM, Packer, Fairfax, James Strong, Woolies, Eastern Golf, Kohler-Gatto and much more
October 20, 2009

Bad Bendigo, Mark Day, Manningham, pokies, NAB, Asciano, Rich List, Paladin, hostile EGMs and much more
September 15, 2009

Macquarie AGM, Melbourne's decline, Asciano EGM, capital raisings, Goyder's pokies, speeches, fire, AGM diary and much more
July 28, 2009


Collingwood AGM, Rizzo survives, ANZ shareholders MIA and Qantas delusions
December 19, 2008

ABC Learning, CBA's Centro brutality, sworn in, pokies, PacBrands and SPP plays
December 10, 2008

After 37 straight defeats, the drought is broken
December 1, 2008

71% backing at Centro, $11bn backing at BHP and huge Qantas protest
November 28, 2008

BHP backflip after $7bn backed our tilt
November 26, 2008

Combank's $700m ABC Learning debacle
November 13, 2008

Toll board skewered over $55m executive rort
October 30, 2008


Fortescue Metals AGM: time for Twiggy and FMG to grow up
Sunday, November 8, 2007, 10.30pm

How $5bn worth of votes backed us against Rupert's dodgy gerrymander
Saturday, 20 October, 2007, 7.20am

Mayne family news

With my better half sitting on the RACV board, we've been having a few interesting conversations at home of late as the RACV publically criticises the City of Melbourne's bicycle strategies.

I'm a supporter of proposals such as reducing cars down to a single lane on Princes Bridge so there is more room for pedestrians and cyclists, plus capacity to expand Melbourne's busiest tram stop.

The next few weeks will be interesting to watch as more mobility measures and transport-related actions are debated and voted on at the City of Melbourne.

We might have to bring the kids in for a family vote on the way forward.

Bikes and the RACV came together over the recent school holidays as we spent a few days at RACV Cobram and the kids did a stack of hours on their bikes. We also rode as a family across Phillip Island from Cowes to San Remo.
In other news, our 8 year old boy Philip played his first game of AFL yesterday and went from the bench, to full forward, centre half back and then the ruck over the 4 quarters.

His former AFL player coach certainly threw him in the deep end and he loved it.

Laura has a piano exam this week and has been practicing extremely hard, even delaying her entry into a local AFL team with some of her basketball friends until the exam is over.

Alice is loving basketball and tennis and they are all enjoying this final year of primary school together.

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.