Senior sources within the Victorian government have told VEXNEWS that the Victorian Electoral Commission spin-doctor Sue Lang was deposed from a similar role at the state Department of Treasury and Finance in the year that the state Budget papers were leaked.
In government circles, the security of the budget papers is possibly the most sensitive imaginable subject with great precautions taken to prevent leaks. Whether deliberately or through abject incompetence, Lang was responsible for the worst leak of government confidential information in decades.
Some conspiracy theorists say Lang deliberately chose a printing company where she had connections and where she was aware there were staff who were closely connected with the Opposition. Some suspect her of doing it herself to help cement a relationship with a key Liberal politician. Others say she didn’t do anything to vet the printer, probably the most important aspect of her job at the time. Whatever story you believe, government insiders say it was one of the worst incidents in cardigan-wearing land and that it was all Lang’s fault.
Lang’s involvement in the leak was never proven despite a lengthy investigation. But she was ordered to leave her role as Director of Communications at DTF shortly after the leak furore. She found a similar role at the much smaller VEC, where she’s been defending that government agency that ought not exist with her usual
One colleague described her yesterday as an incompetent bungler who had been “‘encouraged on’ from every public service position she’s ever had.”
Lang recently involved herself in the disgraceful debacle where a senior and highly respected ALP moderate, Ray Collins, was attacked by the commissioner Steve Tully, whose botching of the 2006 state election will be the subject of a detailed review on VEXNEWS tomorrow.
Sue’s unusually large hands were all over the attack on Collins, we understand she spoke with a half-dozen journalists following Tully’s written attack, encouraging them to denigrate him for making a “threat” to electoral officials. In fact all Collins had done was attempt to explain the potential difficulties involved in monitoring the integrity of the VEC’s work given their bizarre practice of manually keying in tens of thousands of ballot papers.
Naturally, state Parliament does not permit them to count their own elections that way. For good reason too, it is impossible to monitor or scrutineer an election count with forty data entry people unless you have at least forty people to look over their shoulder and some means of stopping that person in the event you identify an error.
Under the VEC’s bizarre model, one is apparently not permitted to interrupt the data entry person or even communicate with them.
The scrutineer would then need another person to communicate with the Returning Officer.
What Collins explained to the VEC official Bill Lang – no relation to Sue Lang apparently – was that in order to have a normal level of scrutiny with the data entry system the VEC uses, there would need to be one scrutineer and a “runner” to communicate with the RO for each data entry person.
The VEC said they’d have forty people entering data. There were eleven candidates. If they all presented with forty scrutineers and forty runners, it would obviously be absurd. That was the point Collins made. It was clearly a hypothetical point, not a threat. And was never expressed as a threat.
In response, Tully told the press he’d summon forth a “Police presence” (funnily enough they weren’t interested) and hired four security guards who were briefed by the VEC to watch out for a dangerous man named “Ray Collins”.
Some of them expressed puzzlement when they saw the impeccably polite and reserved gentleman with an unnatural level of interest in “preference flows” and left-smiting. More than one thanked him so much for being apparently being responsible for unexpected, high-paying work that was just in time to help for Christmas.