IN HOT WATER: Senior public servant faces court over public attack on ALP strategist

tullyshiteater The Victorian Electoral Commissioner Steven Tully – paid $250,000 per annum plus perks – will be placed in the embarrassing position of having to personally defend legal proceedings after publicly attacking a campaigner during the City of Melbourne election.

VEXNEWS has learned that the proceedings will be shortly filed by a highly regarded ALP strategist Ray Collins.


Tully on Friday launched an unprecedented defamatory attack on a former Lord Mayoral candidate Ray Collins, accusing him of making “threats”, engaging in bullying and harassment against a Victorian Electoral Commission staffer. Oddly Tully had not even discussed the matter with Collins prior to making a public statement. Further it is alleged that a Ms Sue Lang – acting on the instructions of Tully – accused Collins of acting in an “untoward” manner.

It was not unreasonably assumed by media and the public that claims made by a supposedly independent public servant about “threats”, “bullying” and “harassment” were either physical or serious in some respect.


dramaqueenstevetully VEXNEWS understands that in fact what Tully and one of his staff Bill Lang deemed to be a threat was a statement by Collins that the Commission’s process of using dozens of people to unnecessarily key in every ballot paper before they were counted would require dozens of scrutineers to monitor the process.

The statement occurred at what was meant to be an open forum to discuss the counting process. It is probably the last time such VEC briefings will attract any attendance at all, given what later transpired.

Collins – who will be bringing legal proceedings against Tully – was making the point that if the nine candidates who attended have dozens of scrutineers that it would be a very crowded and that essentially the system the Commission had adopted made it impossible to scrutineer effectively.

It was very clearly not a threat.

What it was very clearly was a complaint. A complaint shared by all candidates’ representatives, not just in the City of Melbourne either. VEXNEWS has received many reports from scrutineers expressing their frustration that the VEC has engineered a count process that cannot be independently monitored or scrutinised in any meaningful way.

And the response of Steve Tully to an entirely reasonable criticism was to publicly announce that a Police presence and security goons would be at the count-room to counter this “threat”.

It was an extremely odd over-reaction that raises the question of whether the Commissioner is capable of carrying out his duties of office.

Certainly the guards thought so. They had been briefed that the slight Ray Collins was the “security risk”. Scrutineers tell VEXNEWS the guards were highly puzzled by the situation, but grateful for the weekend work. They laughed at their client, one of them saying “public servants are tossers” to which we suggested a swap of roles between bouncer and electoral commissioner might be in order.

Ironically it is Tully’s brazen thuggery by a bureaucrat attempting to silence a rising chorus criticism not just of how the Victorian Electoral Commission counted one council ballot but its overall attitude and lack of accountability for what it does.


Tully’s record is a dismal one.

The 2006 state election saw what amounted to a complete farce in the counting of the Western Metropolitan upper house seat. We will be reviewing exactly what happened in later articles but what it boils down to is this: the Victorian Electoral Commission is run by an incompetent, who is massively out of his depth and unfit for the office he currently occupies.

Tully’s hobby horse is “automating” vote counting. Without going into the issue of whether US style voting machines are a good idea, Tully’s personal enthusiasm for this is even reflected on his biography (complete with enormous photograph) on the Commission website.

What Tully fails to comprehend is that scrutineers who are used to being able to monitor the count process are never going to accept a system which uses uncertified software, impossible to scrutinise data entry that entirely relies on people assuming the Commission aren’t interested in rigging the count.

No one is accusing Tully or the Commission of wanting to corrupt the election process, but with the system he has established, there is really no way of checking it. To paraphrase the property millionaire and serial electoral loser Les Twentyman, a frequent complainer to the VEC himself, Tully’s tally system would do Robert Mugabe proud. Perhaps there’s an export opportunity for Victorian technology to fake democracies all around the world.

Back to Tully though.


The timing of his attack on one of the candidates in the count was also noteworthy and revealing of Tully’s lack of judgement and propriety.

One senior Melbourne council bureaucrat told VEXNEWS on Friday that he was “stunned” Tully had involved himself so blatantly in the political process.

“It’s not what we like to think we’re paying for. I have no doubt the scrutineers and hangers on can be annoying but to single out one person because he was disagreeing about a process doesn’t seem valid to me. I’ll be looking into what happened that’s for sure,” he said.

It’s also interesting to note that Tully made the very serious accusations of misconduct about a meeting he didn’t actually attend.

His source of information about the meeting was a Bill Lang, a meek and mild chap who – we understand – expressly apologised to Ray Collins for what Tully put in his statement and all the fuss that followed as neither represented what really happened at the meeting.


Further criticism of Tully has emerged from their rival organisation, the Australian Electoral Commission.

“His reaction to criticism has been to call in the Police and four bouncers. Some might think it’s an embarrassing and foolish over-reaction, I couldn’t possibly comment.”

“The issue you might think about is why the Victorian Government persists with having a separate electoral commission, there’s no need for it all, they could save many millions a year by abolishing it and using us. There is a huge duplication of infrastructure.”



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23 responses to “IN HOT WATER: Senior public servant faces court over public attack on ALP strategist

  1. ugly mofo

    That isn’t a real pic of Tully surely?

  2. piety

    I used to work at the VEC, any more lefty Greens types there and it could break away and form an eco-micro-nation.

  3. Jed Clampett

    The VEC is a complete hillbilly outfit. It should have been closed down years ago and its fuictions tendered out to a professional organisation like the AEC.

    As for computers counting the votes – there are 2 potential problems here:

    1) the potential for data entry errors, be they deliberate or inadvertant.
    2) the software itself – who has actually scrutinized the software to ensure that it counts and distributes preferencese in the way that is intended?

    The US has had major problems with voting machine sftware skewing results. T

    There is a television documentary entitled “Hacking Democracy” (
    which deals comprehensively with this subject. Although it conjures a few conspiracy theories which it doesn’t completely close the deal on, it does show, compellingly, how a election result can be altered or skewed without any of the so called ‘checks and balances’ identifying any irregularities. It is a rather sophisticated version or stuffing the ballot box.

  4. kiddie fiddler

    He looks like a very bad man.

  5. inquiry

    The Omdudsman should probe him too.

  6. Steve Tully was not in attendance at the meeting and whilst I did not stay to the end from what I observed and others who did stay reported their was not threatening or an act of intimidation. However Tully’s comments are.

    Steve Tully actions were malicious and without foundation. The returning officer, Bill Lang, (Relationship to Sue Lang unknown) offered Ray Collins a private apology during the count. Mr Collins had to suffer undue pressure and intimidating in fulfilling his sole as scrutineer. He was denied natural justice in the process.

    Steve Tully’s actions has brought the not only the Victorian Electoral Commission into disrepute but as an officer of the parliament he has also held the parliament in disrepute and contempt.

    This is not the first time question as to his competency has been raised. Steve Tully’s conduct of the 2006 State election was a complete shame.

    The conduct of Public elections under Steve Tully have not been open or transparent.

    Steve Tully refused to provide relevant information and statistic related to the 2006 State Election. He was unwilling and refused to provide copies of the electronic preference data files recoding the results of the election. It took an FOI application and three months to have them published (Information that should have even readily available during the count)

    There is also concern that he mislead the parliament when giving evidence to the inquiry on the conduct of the election.

    Steve Tully was asked by Christine Campbell (MP for Pascoe Vale) to provide copies of the preference data-file pertaining to the results of the preliminary count in Western Metropolitan region electorate. Steve Tully claimed that the information was not longer available and that the VEC had overwritten the data-files during the recount. If this is true, and it is highly dubious that it is, then it raises even more questions as to the VEC’s professionalism, or lack there of, in administering the count.

    Surely the VEC and its IT support made backup copies of data files? It costs Millions of dollars to count the vote and Tully claims the count was done on the equivalent of an electronic white board and the data lost forever?

    Without access to the primary count preference data-file it is impossible to analysis, in detail, the difference between the two counts.

    In the Western Metropolitan count votes went missing between the first Count and the final count. No satisfactory explanation has been forthcoming.

    The second count that saw a change in the result of the election with less then 150 votes determining the result.

    There are serious issues surrounding the conduct and administration of the VEC and Steve Tully is at the epicentre of it all.

    His false accusations against Ray Collins is not the first time Steve Tully has misused and abused his position of authority.

    Complaints have been made against him in accessing private and confidential records stored on the Victorian Silent Voters list with concern that he has readily distributed confidential information.

    Steve Tully should resign if not the parliament should have him dismissed for what I consider is a serious breach of duty and professionalism and what could be a deliberate attempt to mislead the parliament.

    More information on Steve Tully and the VEC

  7. Unfortunately the Ombudsman has not authority as the Ombudsman Act prevent review of the VEC.

    This is an issue that was raised with the Parliamentary committee of Electoral matters The ombudsman should have authority over the VEC.

    The issue of concern about the VEC are not limited to the City of Melbourne Count. There are reports comming in from all over the state where candidates and scrutineers are not satisfied with the way the elections were conducted.

    The best option would be to see the VEC dissolved and the establishment of a central independent professional national organisation establish to conduct elections in Australia. We would save Millions of dollars wasted in duplicating services and resources that are already available provided by the Australian Electoral Commission.

  8. arrogant loser

    I had to deal with the VEC and the AEC on a contracting issue. The AEC smooth and professional, very efficient. The VEC are slow payers, disorganized and officious. The fish rots from the head and Tully is the main dickhead.

  9. higher res

    I have a problem with kids playing in my backyard because I neighbour a local footy oval and don’t have a good back fence.

    I believe a scarecrow would help. Could you please make available a higher res photograph of Tully so I can add it my scarecrow to keep the kiddies away from my flowerbeds.

    Very creepy…

  10. hail Caesar

    Tully is a thug like the security guards he hires to impose his fascistic will. I hear he also throws his massive weight around the small VEC staff where they kindly describe him as Caesar behind his back.

  11. Hansard

    Just before Tully was to give evidence to the Victorian Parliament’s Electoral Matters committee he switched on the data presentation projector and like a child proceeded to play shadow puppets. It was embarrassing knowing that this was the Chief Commissioner representing Victoria. Imagine if the Governor of Victoria acted in such a maner in front of the Parliamentary representives?

    When he was asked about the rights of overseas voters’ entitlements by Christine Campbell he proceeded to give false and misleading information, demonstrating that he was not familiar with the provisions of the Victorian Electoral Act. All this is minuted in Hansard. A simple comparison of the Act and Tully’s response is enough to realise that this guy has no idea what he is doing.

  12. Anonymous

    Florida 2000 election is more professional than the VEC. Democracy – HA!

  13. First timer

    As a first time participnt I was aghast at the meeting.
    The returning officer was obviously intimidated by Collins, many were.
    With good reason,it was obvious to all present that he had never conducted an election for Melbourne City Council election.
    Collins was at him for answers, and he did not have them.
    He stated more than once.”I have been instructd by above”
    Collins was loud and demanding, and as I recall very apologetic to the other candidate representatives about insisting on protecting the integrity of the ballot.
    When we received the email from Mr Tully, we simply took as being soley to intimidate both Collins and Van Der Craats, who had left the meeting earlier..

    Both myself and the candidate have since spoken to Mr Collins and informed him we thought the email was a disgrace.

  14. Councillors friend

    I was also present.
    Ray quite accurately predicted that the counting of the ballot would not be able to be properly observed and the Singer Ng votes would be critical.
    How did he know in advance?

    He insisted that his calculations on the number of scrutineers required was very high.
    Right again, Sunday was a joke.
    Anything at all could have happened in that tiny room.

    Many of us were made to feel very unwelcome.
    As for the guards, over the top just like the email sent out on Friday.
    But do not involve me.

    Also how was he able to predict the exact order of election of the 7 councillors on SATURDAY .

    enquiry needed?

  15. First timer

    Councillors friend, you are correct.
    The little room was like an oven.
    And as soon as you even slightly lent over to look at a ballot paper,the body language said it all.
    I watched Ray with his USB key .
    We all know he knew what was going on,How did he know so much in advance.
    Might be a first timer, but learnt enough for next time.
    I guess they do not like srutiny?

  16. Interested observer

    Just became aware of this blog.
    I also observed many things.
    My friend lost.
    But I was very pleased to meet Ray.
    He kept me very infomed on what was going on.
    My friend kept ringing and I was not really much help.
    As I was very frustrated I like quite a few others found him very helpful.
    More than the electoral staff.
    We all laughed when discussing the Email.
    Ray did not seem to worried about the guards.
    Maybe embarresed?
    Election office should be.

    But he can be Grumpy

  17. hail Caesar

    Tully is a stupid, arrogant toad. The whole Melbourne count is invalid anyway.

  18. Bull

    They all think they can intimidate sctutineers.
    Collins is loud and direct.
    Should sue the pants and cardigans off him.
    have you a better Mugshot
    Bull dust

  19. Anonymous

    I’m more interested in the Council of East Gippsland results. Michael Freshwater won. He is a former One Nation candidate. According to contributors to this blog he was supported by EPA Stasi Minister Gavin Jennings and Jenny Mikakos.

  20. Public Elections in Victoria has declined under Steve Tully’s rule. He his actions were a clear attempt to intimidate both myself and Ray Collins. This is not the first time Steve Tully has acted to intimidate and harrass scrutineers and those who stand up and rightly question his conduct or had caused to lodge complaints with the State Parliament.

    The way Tully counts the votes it is impossible to properly scrutinise the election.

    There are numerous reports coming in from other municipalities all expressing concern at the lack of transparency. The RO for Hume has refused to provide a copy of the data file recording voters preferences as such there is not effective way in which scrutineers can verify the content of the data file. The VEC falsely claims that the legislation prevents access to this information. The VEC Returning Officer could not specify where in the legislation or regulation this information is prohibited from being made public. Copies of the preference data-files were made available in Melbourne and in other previous Municipal elections.

    The Victorian Parliament in reviewing the debacle of the 2006 State Election (Another example of Tully’s handy work and lack of professionalism) had recommended that ballot papers be be subject to a preliminary sort by first preference votes, as is the case in a Federal Election. Both myself and Ray Collin’s have experienced Tully’s tally method before and as experienced scrutineers are aware of the shortcoming in the system.

    I had previously taken the City of Melbourne to VCAT and won a ruling that the preference data be publish and readily available to the public. Tully has sought to prevent this information from being published. In the process he has brought Victoria into disrepute. He has thumbed his nose at the Parliament and demonstrated his contempt. In 2006 Tully refused to make available the preference data files for the Legislative Council count. We had to FOR him for this information and it took him 3 months to respond.

    Tully failed to provide a copy of the preliminary first count preference data in Western Victoria. Votes went missing between the first count and the second count and there was no satisfactory explanation.

    When the parliament asked Steve Tully for a copy of the preference data-file Tully mislead the parliament and claimed that the data had been overwritten. For Tully to claim that the data had been destroyed is specious indeed. Parliament must initiate a review of the VEC IT department to inquire as to the procedures and if, in fact, the information provided by the Chief Commissioner was truthful. I believe it was not.

    Tully’s statements has raised serious questions as to the professionalism of the person(s) responsible for managing and providing the VEC technical IT support. A professional organization would always make back up copies and maintain transaction logs of the data-entry process particularly given the cost and importance of the inflromation collated (estimated into the millions of dollars). Is Tully honestly asking us to beleive that he has overwritten and destroyed copies of this data?

    Copies of the data file would indicate the quality of the data entry process and would also explain exactly where the shift in the votes occurred and hopefully would also shed light on the votes that went missing between count A and Count B. More important it would ensure that our elections are open and transparent. Steve Tully has gone to extraordinary steps to avoid disclosure of this information clearly he has something to hide.

    Misleading the parliament is a serious offence and if as suspected he has acted deliberately to avoid disclosure then he should resign or be dismissed. It is fundamental that the public maintains confidence in the electoral processed Steve Tully’s contract should not be renewed under the circumstances.

  21. Astronomer

    Did I not see that face and stupid grin in the sky last night.

  22. Alison Donohue

    Tully what a dog! I will never forget the NOrthern Metropolitan Region re-count. What a Buffoon. VEC
    Should be disbanded no doubt about it.

  23. Melbcity

    A formal complaint has been lodged in the Victorian State Parliament against Steve Tully, Victoria’s Electoral Commissioner.

    The request has been made for the State parliamentary to authorize an inquiry or review by the state Ombudsman into the conduct of the State Electoral Commission and the Chief Electoral Commissioner and Sue Lang. The request was made following advise that the Ombudsman was unable to to review the administration of the Victorian Electoral Commission or the Commissioner due to limitations in the Victorian State Ombudsman Act. A complaint has now been lodged with Parliament directly.

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