Failed Lord Mayoral candidate and former councillor Catherine Ng’s regular guest at council functions and freebie events, former Age scribe Terry Maher has turned speaking up for theÂ discredited councillorÂ into a profit centre by charging Eric Beecher $200 for his “analysis” of the Melbourne council election.
A good effort indeed. We salute his entrepreneurship. Free grog from Ng/ratepayers. Money for nothing from Beecher. And possibly some free plonk from one of Eric and Di’s Xmas baskets. All good.Â A journalist has got to make a living somehow.
Old Man Maher’s rant in attempting to explain Ng’s defeat appeared somewhere in Crikey this week and we understand was heavily legalled from the initial angry stream of consciousness draft and was left without names or even direct reference to VEXNEWS, where news has a future. A shame really, we used to so enjoy being defamed in the bankrupt email newsletter. Now, we can barely bother signing up for yet another free trial under yet another bogus hotmail address.Â
Truly if the Daily Beecher gets any lamer, they’ll all need to start using crutches. “Bush is Hitler – Obama is Lord” rants from Guy (pronounced “Gee”) Rundle aside, there’s not even any good muck in it. And his muck is occasionally witty but never an insider’s view. For that, one must come here. As you have. And as of course Terry Maher does too. Thank you for being part of the VEXNEWS family.
LEAVE THE OLD BLOKE ALONE
We love our readers, every last one, and Maher is not such a bad old stick we’re told, supports the almighty Chelsea Football Club in the Premier League and shares a deep and abiding love for red wine/red whine. Our editorial board has decided not to be too mean to the old bloke so we’ll focus on the one for whom he feels Chicago style loyalty (once bought, he stays bought), deposed councillor Catherine Ng.
Because we won’t have Catherine Ng to kick around any more, as she will soon resume her work at a city TAFE, it might be worthwhile to review her life and social crimes.
Ng’s spin-man focused on disparaging Peter McMullin whose candidacy was clearly a great success by any measure, rising from 2% in a Roy Morgan poll before he started campaigning to coming very close to winning the thing. As we demonstrated the other day, his level of support sky-rocketed as voters got to know the Labor moderate. What he lacked was time.
WHERE THE MONEY CAME FROM
Relying presumably on hyperbolic assumptions from his only source, Catherine Ng, he claimed a preposterously high number for McMullin’s campaign spend.Â Our understanding is that Ng spent nearly as much, particularly as she got desperate toward the end. Given that McMullin received thousands of votes more than Ng, his campaign was clearly far more cost-effective than hers. Perhaps she’ll agree to a full audit, conducted by VEXNEWS impartial investigators.
She sprayed money against the wall, literally, wasting a fortune on ineffective outdoor advertising, spent a small fortune on ads on The Age’s website, perhaps a payment for the easy ride she mostly received and sent out much more mail to the Chinese community than was initially evident. While McMullin mainly funded his own effort, Ng’s campaign funds came from so far undisclosed sources.
By contrast, Ng had five times McMullin’s level of initial support/name recognition and despite spending many hundreds of thousands of dollars from property developers and others in the Chinese community her vote stagnated. Partly this was because the fraud she had perpetrated on the municipality by pretending to be a hard working and experienced councillor.Â Thanks to McMullin, she was utterly exposed for what she was.
SMEAR CAMPAIGN? OR SOME INCONVENIENT TRUTH? WE REPORT YOU DECIDE
Two direct mailings – apparently sent strategically to voters likely to respond to the message that she was a lazy humbug – highlighted her attendance record. They were not posted to all voters and so cost nothing like what Ng claimed. We’ve put them below so you can judge for yourself.
Maher accuses McMullin of running a personal campaign against her listing many deficiencies. They didn’t do any such thing. We’ve obtained the two leaflets – the only things distributed as far as we know – and find it difficult to find fault with them. They were accurate, quoted two daily newspapers and Ng herself, and let voters reach a conclusion.
Indeed, McMullin’s supporter Ray Collins made the decision that it was best not to hide their source either, which he easily could have by changing the authorisation line to someone else.
“Honesty is the best policy” Collins told VEXNEWS. “Our whole issue with Ng was that she hadn’t been honest about how slack she’d been as a councillor so we made no bones about our involvement in the material. No one has faulted its accuracy. Even her initially.”
“When she realised she was taking water, her campaign director Ian Hanke’s trick was to question the statistics about her attendance record, which we’d quoted from her own words and the Age and the Herald Sun. She claimed she attended 73% of meetings since first being elected in 2001. We didn’t check those numbers, they might be true. We checked her second term – presumably when she anticipated So running for re-election – which had her attending fewer than half of the meetings she was required to attend.”
“Calling her to account for her public record isn’t nasty or wrong, it’s democracy. If Jack the Ripper had have run, ought we not have mentioned his enthusiasm for stabbing ladies of the evening?”
Not in Catherine Ng’s Beijing style managed democracy world, it seems.
CATHERINE LIKES POLITBURO STYLE DEMOCRACY WHERE SHE CAN’T BE CRITICISED
Ng’s spin it seems is that Doyle only won because of the donkey vote, a high profile and Peter McMullin’s preferences. A bit churlish not to give Doyle credit we think but to be expected of the bitter and twisted like Ng.
The truth is that Catherine Ng’s own record cost her an easy victory. Her big campaign should have increased her vote, but it was pole-axed by a highly effective campaign of accountability that literally had her shrieking around the corridors of the Town Hall “Why does everyone hate me?” This article will explore that very question in some detail.
Ng received preferences from practically every major candidate ahead of Doyle partly because Doyle was seen as very unlikely to have his preferences distributed and wasn’t worth doing a deal with. She must have cackled with delight when she looked at the preference flow Â in the VEC booklet, almost everyone gave her a high preference except for the Socialist Left’s Will Fowles who – on that at least – showed some judgement.
McMullin’s camp – without any deal with Doyle Â in place – clearly decided Doyle would be not quite as bad as Ng and put him ahead of her in the booklet. Curiously perhaps they didn’t do that in the rest of their campaign material. But it is undeniable the Labor moderates had a strong view that Ng was not someone they were comfortable supporting.
WHY DOES NG HAVE SO MANY ENEMIES?
It’s worth thinking about why the moderates rejected her candidacy.
It wasn’t because McMullin is close with the Premier and wanted – if he didn’t get there -to deliver a prominent Liberal to rival Ted Baillieu and torment him until the 2010 election. Although he does appear to have succeeded in that mission.
It wasn’t because Ng is a closet Liberal whose husband Douglas Campbell works for the Liberal leader and is an active member of the party. Campbell is seen as a relatively inoffensive chap, the only survivor from Doyle’s time as Leader and who does a fair job. McMullin ran with a well regarded Liberal rising star, Tim Wilson, who proved himself a diligent, principled and effective campaigner.
It wasn’t because Ian Hanke was running Ng’s campaign either. Hanke was paid $20,000 to run it, ample enough reason for the occasionally bald eagle to swoop in and do his thing for a month or so. Hanke is a righteous dude and as the supposed head of the Howard government’s imaginary dirt unit, VEXNEWS offers him our ongoing respek and we suspect that view is widespread among non Left circles.
NG WAS THE CANDIDATE MOST LIKELY TO WIN FROM THE MOMENT JOHN SO WITHDREW
So why was Ng and her dismal council attendance record a target of McMullin’s campaign?
Partly because this election was hers to lose. In order for McMullin to win, his strategists told VEXNEWS, it was very clear her vote needed to be pushed down. She was in the box seat, with a preference flow that was even more favourable than the one that got John So elected from nowhere in 2001. Ng raised a fortune in brown paper bags and endless fundraisers from property developers and others with businesses in the city.
This year she had got a pretty easy run from the local press and had – notionally at least – a record of serving as Planning Chair for seven years so claim to be experienced. Her campaign material was a little twee but it did the job and unlike most candidates she had a very big, sleazily obtained budget to prosecute her case.
All’s fair in love and war, if you like you’re going to win, you’re going to be criticised. That certainly happened with McMullin as he copped a barrage of criticism as his excellent campaign grew in momentum.
The fact that she whined about it so much was strategically rather stupid as it drew more and more attention to her dismal attendance record, killing off her campaign stone dead.
Yes, McMullin was criticised for it but all negative campaigning is always criticised. And as long as the factual claims are totally correct, they are always effective. Maher as good as admits they cost her victory. That’s certainly our view.
That she is still whining about it through a mouthpiece reflects that she still doesn’t get it. Democracy is a contest. And one should be accountable for one’s public record and relevant private actions too. Any democracy – of the kind she insisted on – where your record as an incumbent cannot be subject to scrutiny and debate is not a real one. It’s more like the one in Beijing she so admires.
VEXNEWS’S ROLE IN NG’S DOWNFALL
Why was she criticised so firmly here and in our predecessor publication, deploying our much-loved usual subtle mix of charm and humour? We acknowledged the campaigns of Nick Columb, Gary Morgan, Peter McMullin and Doyle as all having patriotic aspects worthy of consideration. We wield our patriot stamp sparingly and judiciously. It is our editorial policy to oppose those who would cost Australians jobs, like the Greens party, beyond that we have an open mind on most things and savour our freedom to tell it exactly how it is.
But in relation to Ng there’s more to it than mere politics. And Maher should understand it. So should Ng.
Catherine Ng record of personal conduct and treatment of real life human beings in her daily life doesn’t so much border on the despicable as amount to a full-scale invasion.
She is a putrid human being.
We have seen it up close and personal. We have spoken with her former council colleagues and endless council staff who revealed endless odd anecdotes about her, only some of which we could repeat on VEXNEWS because the telling would reveal the source.
If you doubt it, consider that a quite senior former council staffer, who had no role in any campaign, got up and asked Ng about her pattern of personal misconduct at the Melbourne Press Club. She specifically asked Ng whether she’d been guilty of harassing and bullying staff, some of which had been evidenced in email. She denied it and claimed she “didn’t know what she was talking about.” But of course the paperwork is still sitting in the Town Hall just waiting for us to FOI. Perhaps we should.
Her colleagues told us of endless examples of pettiness, territorial fighting over who would do this and announce that, lying about developers she had seen for “private meetings”, erratic behaviour after downing a bottle of wine, nasty gossiping about people in tones that would even disturb professional defamers like Maher and myself and an approach in the Town Hall that took the politics of personal destruction to a level you wouldn’t even see at Maher’s former employer The Age and certainly here.
DISRESPECT SPEAKS VOLUMES
Ng’s vile and loathsome nature can be summarised in one simple example. Former Lord Mayor John So ran – and paid for – an election ticket that elected her two times to the Melbourne City Council and the supported her election as chair of planning, arguably the council’s most important committee for seven years.
She owed him, big time. Not blind obedience, to be sure, but certainly some gratitude and respect. Without him, she would have been a humble marketing hack for a city TAFE these past seven years.
It is no state secret around the Town Hall or indeed most of Melbourne that Ng frequently disparaged John. She did so to your correspondent, much to my surprise, when trapped at a council function years ago in a ballroom at the Sofitel. If memory serves, she wore a tiara, a little lopsided after she’d had a few. Once she ripped into So, I wore a look of disgust. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t like rats. Until then, I assumed they were close and was quite shocked.
As time went on, she grew more and more disrespectful of John. This was partly manifested in her mini-boycott of council meetings half way through her second term. She ran him down to nearly everyone who’d listen, blaming him for the budget mess and was clearly very envious of his popularity and high profile.
In the end, we understand on good authority, she was regularly hostile to So to his face and swore at him and generally threw her weight around in a highly inappropriate manner. Some say her odious presence was a big factor in his decision not to run again.
Call us old fashioned, but we think So deserved better. A lot better. It’s true that the Gratitude faction is possibly politics’ smallest one. But we think her treatment of John very accurately summed up her character: disloyal, discourteous and despicable.
That’s why we stand by every single harsh word we have published about Ng. She had it coming.
In all our observations of people in politics, including those in the Greens Party and Socialist Left who are our more traditional targets and who frequently house the nasties of the game, we are happy to declare Ng the most venal, odious and putrid grub to have ever crawled across the system. She makes lovable rogue Bob Mammarella look like a saint (cape-wearing), property millionaire and pretend battler Les Twentyman look honest and shareholders’ fiend Evan Thornley appear uninterested in loot.
It boils down to this, if you behave like a witch, you can’t really complain when you end up burned at the stake. Justice has been done. We can only hope her Baillieu faction finds her a winnable seat so we can do it all again.
Maher is more than welcome to respond, on these very pages should he wish. We will attempt to contact him to encourage him to do so. We don’t pay what Crikey does but we are – of course – the future of news.