VIctorian Liberals continue to worry about the approach championed by some in Melbourneâ€™s south-east to side with the stateâ€™s most notoriously poisonous council, Casey Council and its disturbed CEO Mike Tyler.
Tylerâ€™s principal local defender Berwick News – part of the debt-ridden Star News Group â€“ has been accused of â€œcorrupting its mastheadâ€ and further debasing its reputation by selling its front, back and inside pages to the political party for an ad that launched into a spirited defence of Tylerâ€™s mal-administration of his poisonous landfill in Brooklands Green estate.
A whistle-blower inside the company tells VEXNEWS that the Thomas family who own the newspaper sold the wrap-around that was designed to look like a newspaper â€œat a deep discountâ€.
â€œThey havenâ€™t yet paid for the ad and I believe theyâ€™re not going to pay much at all for something that should be in the five-figures,â€ a source familiar with the matter.
The Mike Tyler/ Liberal candidate dominated Casey Council exclusively advertise in the local paper at the expense of Fairfax and News Corporation owned competitors, propping up the south-east Melbourne based company that owes its bankers many millions of dollars in expensive debt that is a strain on a company its size. VEXNEWS has previously revealed Star News Group owes Westpac nearly $8 million.
Some are concerned that the arrangement suggests the political party is benefiting â€œon the sideâ€ from a very generous hand-out of ratepayer loot from a council as popular as leukemia.
THE DEAD-HAND OF IRON MIKE
Star News publications have vigorously defended the notorious Casey Council CEO Mike Tyler who has run the council for over a decade and presided over the poisoning of over a thousand homes on the Brooklands Green estate because of a dodgy municipal landfill for which he had direct responsibility and is being currently sued for the allegedly negligent way he ran it.
The council is currently being sued in a class action by hundreds of local home-owners involving potentially many tens of millions of dollars.
Council insiders tell VEXNEWS that a spin-doctor firm Socom, previously associated with Laborâ€™s Socialist Left, engaged by the Casey council has been keen to blame the Victorian government for the management of the local tip of poison. Thatâ€™s clearly a stretch and is not a commonly held view in the area. Socom are believed to have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to spin the councilâ€™s involvement in the notorious tip and have scripted calls to talkback radio and authored letters to the editor in local papers in pursuit of Mike Tylerâ€™s blame-shift strategy.
Socomâ€™s ties in the state government are strained by its association with a cause so discredited, government insiders have previously told VEXNEWS.
â€œDefending these buggers is much worse than acting for Big Tobacco, Socom clients are being told to stay awayâ€ one explained.
Concerned Liberals have also questioned feisty local MP Inga Peulichâ€™s chosen â€œall-inâ€ strategy on the issue, arguing that associating her partyâ€™s brand with the Casey council, its infamous CEO Mike Tyler and his poisonous municipal landfill might not be the wisest political strategy.
The Victorian Ombudsman investigated the Casey council in relation to their conduct and made a number of damning findings against the council CEO Mike Tyler including that heâ€™d threatened the physical safety of Environmental Protection Authority officials who were probing his poisonous tip.
The Berwick News shows no such reservations in its editorial coverage, although handing over its front-page to a political ad certainly got the attention of local political observers astonished by the foolhardy nature of the enterprise.
SELF-DESCRIBED â€œWORKING CLASS HEROâ€
Aside from vigorously defending the Mike Tylerâ€™s landfill and attempt to blame-shift, the newspaper describes one political candidate as a â€œworking class hero (who) has answered the call and is standing up for his community.â€
Geoff Ablett â€“ the brother of Gary Ablett whose hobbies included supplying lethal quantities of illicit drugs to young women at the Park Hyatt â€“ is believed to have written the â€œworking class heroâ€ line himself, Lib insiders laughingly told VEXNEWS. Ablett is a devoted supporter of Tyler on council who is believed to have strongly encouraged Ablett to run in the state election defending his record on issues like the poison tip.
Ablett is considered very entrepreneurial, even arranging Casey council funding for his $70,000 per annum job as the manager of a local community radio station that has at least five listeners by lunch-time.
Some might call that a corrupt conflict of interest but weâ€™re sure he would have complied with the Local Government Act even if heâ€™s acted unethically.
Also ethically dubious is Lorraine Wreford, another Casey councillor running for a state seat, who falsely claimed on popular radio station MTR this morning that she is a â€œmedical professional.â€ VEXNEWS has learned that her qualifications extend to that of a two-day needle injection course. Her ex is a doctor so might have hoped the training had rubbed off between the sheets, local wags suggest.
Other candidates are more modestly described.
More positively, after theyâ€™ve defended the stateâ€™s worst council on one page, the Liberals ad tackles some good issues on cost of living, law and order and transport infrastructure.
Not a word about $5 discount swimming lessons, war on dog breeders or dirt units or hand-outs to anti-Liberal African groups of the kind that appears to be the Liberals central message if you read the metro newspapers or watch the TV news.
It reveals a gap between the approach pursued by Baillieuâ€™s leaders office and the perhaps more highly regarded crew at party HQ at 104 Exhibition Street.
Even Baillieuâ€™s message on the back page isnâ€™t half bad but many think will be totally undermined by defending a deeply unpopular and disgraced Casey council bureaucracy that many locals would rather lynch than continue to pay for.