Saturday, December 9, 2006

Did a misleading campaign change the Northcote result?

On the latest figures from the VEC, the answer is quite possibly 'yes'. With votes comprising some 90.36 per cent of the total enrolment now counted, the number of people who either voted informally or did not vote at all numbered some 5345. If even a portion of that number had combined with people who voted Labor only because of the ALP's misleading campaign, the line between a Greens and an ALP victory might have been very thin indeed.

That conclusion is important, because the Electoral Act 2002 places a requirement on the Court of Disputed Returns to consider whether the result would have been changed in determining petitions challenging election results. Given that the figures suggest that the ALP's misleading campaign might have swung the balance, there appears to be scope for the Greens to challenge the Northcote result in court. Advice from the VEC indicates that this would need to occur within 40 days of the return of the writ, which is anticipated for 16 December.

I should also include here an update on the tally for the seat, as the figures given in my last post were calculated when counting had only been partially completed and things have improved somewhat for the ALP. In 2002, votes comprising 91.37 per cent of the total enrolment were counted, so this suggests that counting for 2006, at 90.36 per cent, must now be down to the very last votes. Given that, how has the ALP fared?

Well, despite an increase of 2.3 per cent in the total enrolment, first-preference votes for the ALP were down from 18,229 for Delahunty in 2002 to 17,470 for Richardson in 2006. The number of informal votes was up 0.5 per cent as a proportion of the total vote (up by 190 to 1624), as were non-voters at 1.0 per cent as a proportion of the total enrolment (about 3721 in 2006, compared to 3257 in 2002).

The upshot is that, despite its misleading campaign, the ALP first preference vote was down by about 2.7 per cent, and engagement in the process also fell away. It could well be that, as well as deceiving voters to vote for them instead of the Greens, the ALP may have turned people away who were uncertain what to believe. If that's a fair and open election, we're setting the bar pretty low.

For those so inclined, the 2002 results can be compared with the 2006 results on the VEC's own pages, though little change in the latter is now likely given the extent of the count.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Coverage of ALP Northcote election tactics

It's good to see The Melbourne Times publishing a selection of letters in this week's edition about the misleading campaign carried on by the ALP in Northcote against the Greens leading up to the 25 November State election. Among them was an edited version of my contribution, given here in full:

I was pleased to see Fiona Richardson repeat claims about a Green preference deal with the Liberals, as Northcote voters now have documented evidence that she was deeply implicated in this false allegation, also shamefully advanced by Peter Garrett and the Premier himself in letters to all Northcote electors before the election. And that's in addition to Labor's nocturnal letterboxing of flyers showing the Greens emblem with a picture of Ted Baillieu at its centre.

On election day, as I stood on the steps of Northcote Town Hall with Fiona Richardson and the Labor luminaries turned lackeys for the day, I saw in the questions of concerned voters to the Greens campaigners that these grubby tactics had hit home. For every voter who asked a question, there were doubtless others who voted Labor, improbably fearing that the so-called 'deal' might overturn Labor's 28-seat advantage in the Lower House.

I call on Fiona Richardson to declare the basis on which she argues that the deal existed, to reveal the role of her husband, Stephen Newnham, in her campaign, and to make public the extent of funding devoted to misleading Northcote voters. I want people to know that in this campaign the Labor Party was reading from the Tampa book of election strategy, and should be ashamed for having done so.

As for Richardson's performance as a mere place-holder for the ALP, I note from VEC figures that the Party's first-preference votes dropped by nearly 3,500 from Delahunty's 2002 tally, that there were nearly 6,000 fewer formal votes, and informal votes were also up substantially. In the context of such a dirty campaign, these figures are hardly cause for the arrogance now dripping from our new MP.

There was also coverage in this week's edition of The Northcote Leader on page 5, 'Brown sees red over Green preference claims', the headline referring to the intervention in the issue of Greens Senator, Bob Brown. Let us hope that the Greens pursue their legal challenge over the campaign, and that the ALP's tactics continue to receive the scrutiny they deserve.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

An unlikely dream for independents?

Despite independents polling poorly in general in the State election (I polled a humble 1.54 per cent), there were some notable exceptions. Candidates for Footscray and Ivanhoe polled 15 per cent and ten per cent respectively, and Craig Ingram – the last of the trio of independents from 1999 – retained his seat.

While I do not pretend familiarity or agreement with their individual policies, I take my hat off to them as independents, who I believe must have a continuing role in Victorian politics.

Ingram contributed to the Independents' Charter of 1999, and I saw the Government's shortcomings in regard to the Charter as still relevant to the 2006 election when I decided to run. I considered these matters in an unpublished opinion piece submitted to The Age on 14 November, which I encourage readers to consider as we embark on the long haul to 2010.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


My sincere thanks to everyone who voted for me and to the people who gave up their valuable time to help me with the election. Despite the disappointing result, it was still very much worth the effort. The experience has taught me a lot of things about campaigning that I may use in future - make your campaign longer than two weeks is one of them. Unfortunately, other important demands on my time did not allow a longer lead-up to the election.

I offer my qualified congratulations to the Bracks Government on its re-election, but fear that many of the reasons that prompted me and other independents to run may still prevail in four years' time. Unless this Government moves beyond consultation to genuine community participation and engagement, it will continue to trade on the pathetic argument that it is merely better than the Liberals. I applaud its stance on industrial relations, but reject its policies on planning, public-private partnerships and gaming, to name but a few contentious matters.

Finally, I reject the corruption of idealism with the kind of debased political pragmatism we have seen in the Northcote campaign. I refer in particular to the misleading electoral material suggesting a preference deal between the Liberals and the Greens. In this, Labor has read from the Tampa book of political strategy, and should be ashamed for having done so.

For these reasons, I cannot congratulate Fiona Richardson as the beneficiary of such tactics - to do so would be to congratulate an interchangeable and generic cog in the Labor Party machine. I issue the challenge to her to prove to Northcote electors that she is more than this. Her actions will not escape scrutiny.

Friday, November 24, 2006

How to vote Independent in Northcote

If you have received one of my flyers in your letterbox, my preferences for how-to-vote are shown on one side. If you have decided to vote for me, thanks! Please take the flyer with you to your voting centre, as I do not have the resources to give out how-to-vote-cards at every centre, though I will be around.

For those who have not come to this site from the flyer, I give my preferences here in ballot order. Please remember to number all the squares in the ballot for the Lower House, or your vote won't count. If you think I deserve your vote, don't miss writing a '1' in the box next to my name at the bottom of the ballot.

WILLIS, Daniel - The Family First candidate, please preference Willis last by writing a '5' in the box next to his name on the Lower House ballot. Willis represents a right-wing conservative religious agenda, and has no links with local communities. While I am not myself religious, I believe churches have a contribution to make in debates like social justice. However, Willis would not represent the diversity of reasonable views held within the electorate, instead supporting the extreme agenda of his party.

BHATHAL, Alex - The Greens candidate, please preference Bhathal second by writing a '2' in the box next to her name on the Lower House ballot. You may have seen the recent electoral material distributed by Labor suggesting a preference deal between the Greens and the Liberals. I put these allegations to the Greens before deciding to preference them second and am satisfied the allegations are false. Green preferences in Northcote clearly preference Labor over the Liberals, and I am convinced there is no 'deal' to favour the Liberals in other seats. Despite some differences on Melbourne 2030, the Greens have decent policies, and I am prepared to preference them second to send a message to Bracks as a disaffected life-long supporter (but never a member) of his Party who is sick of community voices being ignored.

RICHARDSON, Fiona - The Labor candidate, please preference Richardson third by writing a '3' in the box next to her name on the Lower House ballot. Richardson was imposed on the electorate when Mary Delahunty, the sitting member and pre-selected candidate, resigned in the lead-up to the poll. Richardson lives in Regent, outside the electorate, and has few links to local communities apart from her claimed use of our shops, roads and doctors. Nevertheless, she has misleadingly claimed to be a 'local' in electoral material distributed to local communities.

If elected, she would carry forward objectionable Government policies such as the Melbourne 2030 pro-development agenda (for further discussion, please see my own policies). Residents could also expect little in the way of advocacy from a Labor MP unwilling to speak out against the policies of her re-elected Government.

Richardson is aligned with the Labor Right, and is married to State Labor heavy-weight, Stephen Newnham, who authorised misleading election material such as Peter Garrett's letter about a preference 'deal' between the Greens and the Liberals (see above, and my media release on the topic). Please send them a message that they can no longer take local residents for granted.

WATT, Graham - The Liberal candidate, please preference Watt fourth by writing a '4' in the box next to his name on the Lower House ballot. I still remember the Kennett years, and hope you do too. Watt represents everything we see going wrong with Government at the Federal level, and a vote for the Liberals would be a vote for John Howard's harsh industrial relations laws, which I utterly reject. I was at the ACTU's national days of protest and will be at the MCG on 30 November, but you won't find Watt in the crowd. Please ensure your vote is for fairness in the workplace.

LEWIN-HILL, Darren - I am the only Independent candidate running for Northcote, and ask that you preference me first by writing a '1' in the box next to my name on the Lower House ballot. I ask for your vote as a genuine local resident who has fought for the community on planning issues, and as someone who would demand a local say on all issues affecting local residents in Northcote, Thornbury, Preston, Fairfield and Alphington. I oppose the Howard industrial relations laws, am sympathetic to Labor values, but would hold the Government to account in the many areas where it has fallen down - including public-private partnerships, service delivery and planning. I am also standing on local issues such as safer speed limits, increased childcare, protection of the environment, and cuts to the gaming machines that take tens of millions of dollars from the community. I urge you to read these pages, paying close attention to my policies.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Northcote smear flyer, Garrett letter, show Labor fears alternative vote

Here's a media release I issued this morning:

The Labor Party has issued a grubby flyer, and a letter from Federal MP and former Oils frontman, Peter Garrett, in an attempt to suppress the Northcote vote for the Greens and, indirectly, independent candidate, Darren Lewin-Hill. The flyer and letter suggest a preference deal between the Greens and the Liberals. However, while the Greens and Lewin-Hill have preferenced each other second, they have both preferenced the Labor Party above the Liberals and Family First on how-to-vote cards registered with the Victorian Electoral Commission.

'I don't want people who are considering voting for a local independent to think that my preferences to the Greens might ultimately support the Liberals, when that is absolutely not the case,' Mr Lewin-Hill said today, noting that he was doing his utmost to win as a long-shot outsider in the contest.

Read the full media release

Monday, November 20, 2006

Labor set to crowd the Northcote skies

Here's a media release that went out this morning to all major media:

Some of the worst impacts of Melbourne 2030 are set to play out post-election for residents of Northcote, said Darren Lewin-Hill, an independent Lower House candidate, today. He said that, if elected, Labor's Fiona Richardson would carry forward the State Government's disastrous planning blueprint for crowding the skies of Northcote and other inner suburbs.

Residents adjoining Northcote railway station and large tracts of factory land on Arthurton Road ear-marked for rezoning are facing development of up to eight storeys. In an area of densely packed one and two-storey homes, the proposed rezoning will allow development that threatens overshadowing and a marked worsening of the already stressed traffic and parking situation. It will also inevitably heighten the danger from cars faced by children from the nearby Helen Street (Northcote) Primary School.

Read the full media release

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Where I stand

If you would like to learn more about my views on key policy areas, there is now a page called 'Where I stand' that goes into a bit more detail about my positions on such matters as industrial relations, PPPs, delivery of services, development, traffic, childcare, public housing, social justice, and the environment. I invite you to read these views and to test them by sending me any questions you might have, including with regard to specific issues. If I am elected, this is what you can expect.

Above all, however, you can expect an available MP who will reply to your correspondence, attend public meetings, and be available to constituents. I will listen to local people and carry their voice to Parliament.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

So what can independents offer?

The ABC reports that there are 63 independents contesting the 2006 Victorian State election, so just what can independents achieve if they do get elected? In my case, I'm hoping to bridge the gap between an arrogant Government and its better self. That means supporting a re-elected Bracks Government on issues such as their fight against John Howard's IR laws, but holding them to account where they drift too close to the Liberals and Family First. The exact effect of that aim will depend on how the numbers fall out both in the Lower and Upper House.

If the election proves close – and governments are formed in the Lower House – the prospect suddenly looms of independents figuring in the balance of power. This happened in 1999, when Russell Savage, Craig Ingram and Susan Davies reached agreement with Steve Bracks to form Government based on the trio's Independents' Charter.

While I would like to hear what these independents ultimately made of their agreement and its outcomes, such a prospect offers hope of legislative decisions that are contested, not decided by the overwhelming majority we see in the Lower House today.

But even if the Lower House numbers are still one-sided after 25 November, the electoral reforms in the Upper House won by Savage, Ingram and Davies mean that there is a real chance that, together with independents, a minor party such as the Greens will have a real say in the final form of legislation. Even if Lower House independents lack the numbers to force change, their profile and ability to achieve media focus on the issues may well influence their Upper House colleagues, or at least inform their debate.

From a local perspective, independents can shine a light both on the workings of Parliament and local Councils. This has particular relevance where, as in Northcote, Labor dominates the Council and holds the local seat in State Parliament.

Finally, just like Savage, Ingram and Davies in 1999, independent MPs have the ability to align, not on party lines, but in the interest of local communities and of Victoria as a whole. Openness and engagement of communities are keys to this idea, together with a commitment to make decisions on principle rather than engage in pragmatic deals. I encourage you to read the Independents' Charter 1999 – it still has urgent relevance today.

And now a word from Giorgia!

It appears my last post has come to the attention of its subject, Giorgia Moar. Giorgia has penned the following reply to my email, though she's welcome to leave a comment for everyone if she so desires. Anyway, here it is. She has renamed me 'David' – if only she could rename the electoral district of Preston to Northcote, her problems would be solved. The electorate would just be very, very big.


How kind of you to allow me the write a letter to my local paper!

It is laughable to suggest that I am part of the ALP machine. I have taken an interest in the election (including writing to my local paper) as I want to ensure that my community is well represented.

I have given my support to the campaign of Fiona Richardson because I think Fiona would make a good Member for Northcote.

Sorry to disappoint you but it is that simple. No hidden agenda.

[No hidden agenda, just very small print – Ed.]

Good Luck with your projects.



Sunday, November 12, 2006

It pays to read the fine print

The 17 October edition of the Northcote Leader was a good one. On page one we had a nice picture of Fiona Richardson with her admittedly handsome young lad claiming in the words of the headline that she was 'no outsider' to the Northcote electorate, which she lives, let's face it, outside of. She even had some support, it seemed, from at least one local resident, who, in a letter to the paper ('Much ado about zilch', your view, page 11), rejected the fuss made of her residing elsewhere (Regent, in fact).

As a Northcote local, Giorgia Moar had a perfect right to pen a letter in support of Ms Richardson. However, it's also pretty clear that readers (aka voters) were entitled to know but were not told of her association with electoral material distributed on Ms Richardson's behalf.

Not long after Giorgia's letter to the editor, presumably published in good faith by the paper, she both authorised and printed a Richardson flyer promoting the Labor candidate's 4 November appearance in Westgarth. I think readers deserved to know that what they were hearing was not really a local perspective, but instead the voice of the Labor Party machine. If there's an explanation for this, I think we need to hear it.

The truth will out (at least here)!

Hopefully the last of the catch-up posts, here is the media release issued on 9 November in response to Mr Tully's advice:

The Electoral Commissioner, Mr Steve Tully, has rejected a claim by Darren Lewin-Hill, a Northcote independent candidate, that Labor electoral material is deceptive or misleading in claiming local status for its Northcote candidate. Mr Tully's advice comes despite the fact that the Labor candidate, Fiona Richardson, lives in Regent, in the heart of the Preston District to the north of the seat she is contesting.

In a brochure recently distributed in Northcote, Ms Richardson is described as a 'local working mother'. A letter earlier sent to Northcote electors by Mary Delahunty MP describes Ms Richardson as 'a long time local resident'.

'The issue is not whether political parties can run a candidate who lives outside the electorate - they clearly can, as we saw with Mary Delahunty and see now with Fiona Richardson. At stake is the accuracy of what can be told to electors in locally distributed material. It is clear to me that voters receiving this material in their Northcote letterboxes would read "local" to mean living in the electorate. When "local" is misused, electors are misled,' Mr Lewin-Hill said today.

Mr Tully advised in his response to the complaint that he considers 'local' to mean 'of the neighbourhood' and that the descriptions in the electoral material were therefore 'not clearly false or misleading in terms of section 84(1) of the Electoral Act 2002'.

Mr Lewin-Hill rejected Mr Tully's response on the basis of electoral boundaries published on the Victorian Electoral Commission's own website.

'From the maps themselves, it's drawing a long bow to suggest that someone who lives in Regent is 'of the neighbourhood' relative to residents of the Northcote District. Ms Richardson would most certainly be claiming local status in Preston if she were running for that Seat. She can't have it both ways and, in choosing their MP for Northcote, electors have a right to know if someone's claim to be local is true or false.

'If the electoral matter had made a clear statement about Ms Richardson living elsewhere and she demonstrated strong local ties, that would be a different matter. However, she clearly feels exposed on being yet another Labor ring-in and on the performance of the Bracks Labor Government. That's why she needs to compensate by claiming to be a local when she's not,' Mr Lewin-Hill said.

He invited those interested in examining Ms Richardson's claims to visit the following pages on the VEC website:

Northcote District:

Preston District:

Map showing Regent relative to Preston boundary:

Mr Lewin-Hill has lived in the Northcote electorate for nearly 12 years, and for two years was spokesperson for the community planning group, Save Westgarth Village.

The Commissioner strikes back!

Here's the text of the Commissioner's reply:

Dear Mr Lewin-Hill

Complaint about election material

I refer to your letter of today in which you complain that election materials recently sent by Ms Mary Delahunty MP [And by Ms Richardson - Ed.] to electors in the Northcote District contain misleading or deceptive information.

In your letter you assert that references by Ms Delahunty to Ms Fiona Richardson, the Australian Labor Party candidate for Northcote, as a 'long standing local resident' and [by Richardson herself - Ed.] as a 'local working mother' are deceptive. You assert this because Ms Richardson does not live within the District of Northcote.

I note, however, that the election material does not say that Ms Richardson lives in the District of Northcote, but that she is a long standing local resident. In this context, I consider the term 'local' to mean 'of the neighbourhood', and that the statement is not clearly false and misleading [Not clearly, but maybe just a bit? - Ed.] in terms of section 84(1) of the Electoral Act 2002.

If it remains your view that the statement about Ms Richardson's local residency is misleading, you may wish to make your own comments on the matter as part of the campaign process. [Indeed - Ed.]

Yours sincerely,

Steve Tully
Electoral Commissioner

Complaint lodged with VEC over Labor 'local' claims

This went out on the same day (8 November) but, as you will see in replying to the complaint made to him, the Elector Commissioner, Steve Tully, also had his pen in the inkwell that day! Here's the text of my letter.

Dear Mr Tully,

I am writing to seek your urgent action to rectify misleading or deceptive information in campaign materials recently sent to electors by Mary Delahunty MP and on behalf of Labor candidate for Northcote, Fiona Richardson.

Referring to Ms Richardson respectively as a 'long standing local resident' and a 'local working mother', these materials (copies attached) give the false impression that this candidate lives in the electorate, when in fact she lives in Regent, which falls well within the electoral district of Preston.

Ms Richardson recently acknowledged that she lives outside the electorate in the 18 October edition [actually 17 October - Ed.] of the Northcote Leader. However, there is no such acknowledgment in the electoral materials, which are mass mailed to electors and are likely to deceive those wishing to cast their vote for a genuinely local candidate.

Had Ms Richardson nominated for Preston, she could have rightly claimed local status, but I contend claiming local status for Northcote in fact is 'likely to mislead or deceive an elector in relation to the casting of the vote of the elector,' and therefore breaches section 84(1) of the Electoral Act 2002.

In rectifying this breach, note should be taken of the extensive resources of the Labor Party to reach electors via mass mail-outs and other marketing measures. The Labor Party ought therefore to be called on to publish within the electoral matter still to be distributed a notice correcting their claim of local status for their candidate. The correction should plainly indicate that the use of the term local was inappropriately applied, that the candidate lives outside the electorate, and that the correction has been ordered by the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC). A similar statement should also be required to be published prominently in local media, together with other measures as deemed appropriate by the VEC.

Finally, with a short time remaining until the State election, I request your urgent response on these matters in order that voters who wish to choose a local candidate may have the facts at hand when they cast their vote. To this end, I have forwarded a copy of this letter, together with a press release, to the media.

Sincerely etc.

Independent offers Labor values, local voice for Northcote

Welcome to my new blog! This entry was originally issued as a media release on Wednesday 8 November. When I catch up, material will be posted as soon as possible after it has been released.

Darren Lewin-Hill, a community campaigner against the Bracks Government's excessive development agenda, today announced he would stand as an independent candidate for the Lower House seat of Northcote in the 25 November State election.

Mr Lewin-Hill said he would offer 'a true community alternative for voters dissatisfied with Labor but rightly opposed to voting Liberal'.

'There's a big opportunity for a Northcote independent to drag a re-elected Labor Government back towards the values it claims to have but has failed to fulfil,' Mr Lewin-Hill said today.

He said Mary Delahunty had failed to stand up for the electorate because she would not speak out against the policies of her own Government, especially on planning. Together with a Labor-dominated Council in Darebin, the electorate had suffered from poor advocacy, with no community voice in Parliament to fight on local issues.

Mr Lewin-Hill said that, with such a Labor track record, advocacy was unlikely to come from a new Labor member who, like her predecessor, lived outside the electorate but had wrongly claimed 'local' status.

He signalled he would work with a re-elected Labor Government on issues of agreement, vowing total support for the fight against the Howard Government's industrial relations crusade. However, if elected, he would be controlled by no party, nor by the factions that had plagued Labor, acting instead to reflect the voice of the broad electorate, and the public interest of Victorian communities.

The Bracks Government had failed on these criteria, especially in shaping the future of local neighbourhoods against a tide of often well-founded local protest, Mr Lewin-Hill said. As a community planning campaigner, he had seen first-hand how Labor excluded the voice of local communities from crucial planning decisions.

'Working to go beyond mere "consultation" to community engagement and participation in planning could well offer a better, more inclusive model in other areas,' Mr Lewin-Hill said.

He signalled future opposition to such measures as the Bracks Government's failed bid to sell off the Snowy Hydro. A re-elected Labor Government could also expect fierce scrutiny of secret deals with private companies worth billions of public dollars.

Local issues firmly on the agenda included fighting to reduce the numbers of poker machines, strengthening public education and training, increasing childcare places, and creating a sense of urgency in the State's response to climate change. He added that poor traffic management in locations such as Victoria Road, High Street, Clarke Street and the St Georges Road roundabout was placing local lives at risk.

A resident of the Northcote electorate for nearly 12 years, Mr Lewin-Hill is married to Fiona, a social worker, and is father to two young daughters. He works for a national education project, and for two years was spokesperson for the community planning group, Save Westgarth Village.