Melbourne Scribe - Views on the news, media, politics, MUSU, Melbourne and me

Friday, May 27, 2005

Pandagate Revisited - the green t-shirt

Remember Pandagate? Rob Corr at Red Rag has a history here and here (starts at the bottom). Pandagate really took off with this Age article by Misha Schubert. Titled 'The Young Lib, the green T-shirt and the how-to-vote card...' it began:

Young Liberals posed as "bogus Green campaign workers" on election day to trick Green supporters into voting Liberal, federal Labor MP Michael Danby has claimed.

In a formal complaint to the Australian Electoral Commission, Mr Danby said the Green how-to-vote cards for his seat of Melbourne Ports - handed out by young women in green T-shirts and caps - misled voters.

The complaint claims the Liberal strategy breached the Electoral Act, which outlaws material "that is likely to mislead or deceive an elector" in relation to casting a vote".

"On handing this card to voters, the young women said things like 'Vote for a Green Australia' ...or 'Voting Green?' before handing them the card," he wrote.

"Polling place workers saw repeated instances of voters, particularly young voters, taking the green card in the belief that it was the Australian Greens card - a mistake they realised only when Greens workers pointed it out to them."

One of the young women named in the complaint was Miranda Airey-Branson, 20, a Liberal editor of Melbourne University student newspaper Farrago.


She and South Caulfield Liberal booth captain Alex Lew have, in turn, accused Mr Danby of intimidation. They claim he started yelling at Ms Airey-Branson on election day when he turned up at their polling booth.

"I was quite shaken afterwards," Ms Airey-Branson said.

On the green how-to-vote card, the Liberals claim a series of environmental achievements, including "cutting greenhouse gas emissions".

But where did they get that idea from? The State of the Union DVD which I have previously spruiked outlines Alex Lew's efforts in the 2003 MUSU elections.

Gary Newman: "The brunt of the Greens campaigning was done by Alex Lew, a member of the campus Liberal club. Understandably, Lew was somewhat reluctant to be filmed wearing campaign material alleging John Howard was a racist liar."

Alex Lew: "I don't want to be filmed at the moment, please."

GN: "Are you a Liberal?"

AL: "I don't have to disclose my political affiliation....Look, I'm a member of the Melbourne University Greens Club."

GN: "A day after this footage was filmed, MUSU President Scott Crawford banned any further filming on Union House premises after 'Complaints from certain anonymous students.'"
(Originally posted 1st May)

UPDATE: The Australian reported this week that Alex's tactics have been copied in Queensland:

THE University of New England council has expelled a Young Liberal student who passed himself off as a Green and handed out beer while spruiking near a voting booth on student election day.


The tribunal also found that Mr McInerney, a member of the Northern Tablelands Young Liberals, had used the words "Vote Green" inside a triangle on some of his publicity material.

"It is dishonest and misleading and deceptive in that it falsely suggests that Mr McInerney is affiliated with the Greens, thus giving his environmental claims more credibility than they might otherwise have received."
Seems like there's a spate of right-wingers trying to pass themselves off as lefties...

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Working for the North

Cr. Dean Sheriff writes:

Where is Dean Sherriff, former Commercial Services Director? Right here. Still Alive. Just became aware of your website.
Despite attempts to sabotage my business, attempted break ins at my home, being run off the road, death threats and 8 separate dirt sheets I am still around.
Please forgive me for not posting my business and employment details but I have already had job applications nuked and dirt sheets sent to my clients making attacks about MUSU and making unfair remarks about my ethnicity and attacking my father for being a Vietnam War conscript all of which are most offensive.
A couple of errors in "Anonymous'" entry (4/21/2005 12:26AM) should be pointed out. Uni mate of Andrew Landeryou? No. I undertook my undergraduate studies in economics at La Trobe and started the year after Mr Landeryou left Melbourne Uni for Bond. At no time prior to my 9 months of employment at MUSU Inc was I enrolled at Melbourne University.
Holder of missing cheques? No. Please check the transcipt of the examinations or past articles from The Age for further information on this.
Campaign Manager for Kimberley? Yes, but her surname is Kitching not Kitchner. The VEC or AEC (I can't remember - too many campaigns?) could verify this for you.
Campaign Manager for Darren Ray? No. Please check with the VEC for the details of who was Darren's campaign manager. Each candidate fills out a form with the details of the campaign manager when they nominate. Before you ask, and to save you having to wade through the MUSU transcripts, my Campaign Manager was David Asmar. Yes, the Current Darebin Mayor's Hubby.
In terms of comments about a strong link, I wouldn't go that far but I have always been an open book. Yes I met Andrew Landeryou at functions and events prior to working at MUSU and even met with him in relation to his wifes campaign. He is a larger than life character and pretty hard to avoid in ALP circles, at least until this week.
Anyway, I can understand the passion with which everyone is debating issues surrounding the MUSU liquidation and I can further understand that sometimes people go a bit too far just as I did on occasion at La Trobe. The personal attacks though while I was under subpeana (and therefore couldn't legally reply) have taken their toll and were most unfair. My roll was as an employee who was asked to manage what can only be described as a basket case. I mean, I do enjoy a challenge but that place was beyond all that.
Anyway, here is my offer. Anyone who would like to discuss everything I know about MUSU can contact me at home on 9466 9652 and I am happy to meet them for a coffee or a beer (your choice) and run through it all.
Regards and warm wishes,
Cr Dean Sherriff
Councillor for Grimshaw Ward
'Working for the North'
PO Box 1280, Bundoora 3083
Phone - 03 9466 9652
Fax - 03 9466 9195

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

I'll never get to sleep at this rate...

In a seriously lengthy reply to my question, Scott writes:

Dear Brent,

I have always been prepared to answer any questions that have been put to me. I have cooperated with the Union’s Auditors, the University’s Auditors, Union appointed lawyers – who conducted reviews of all contracts and finally the present Supreme Court examination. I have been the most scrutinized individual involved in this whole affair. Therefore I have no hesitation in now facing the Houghton inquisition; in fact I am pleased to have the opportunity to have a direct line to all the student political hacks out there. Yet, I am aware, that no matter how many questions I answer, no matter how many times I am put under oath – some people will never move from their pre-existing view of me.

In saying that, I would advise that there is no point in some people reading this post, because no matter what I say, no matter how I say it they simply won’t believe me. However if you have an open mind read on…

Brent, you asked me if I have any regrets? My answer is two fold. Firstly, hindsight is a fantastic thing and things are always much clearer in retrospect. This is why so many individuals now judge and pull apart my every move made within Union House, hoping to find dishonest motives and corrupt intentions. Frankly, I did what I did while in office as I thought it was the best response to the situations that arose. I am not saying that two years on, knowing what I do now, I would not have changed my actions in particular circumstances. Most certainly I would have. The fundamental problem is that I did not know then what I know now. But these changes would be everything from eating fried food at the Eastern Kitchen through to being unsuccessful in ensuring the Ferrier Hodgson proposed structure was implemented by the Union.

Secondly, at a macro-level I certainly do have regrets. I regret being a naive 19 year old, who walked in on the quagmire that was the Melbourne University Student Union. I regret that MUSU was so entirely inept it was unable to deal with the issues facing it. I regret that the Executive and Student Council were unable to effectively respond to the crises they found themselves in. I regret that Student Representatives did not acknowledge the intentions of third parties in relation to the Union restructuring. I regret that I wasn’t able to make the decisions I wanted to make. There are many regrets.

However, I do not regret approving the Optima project. This is probably a surprise to all. I don’t regret it because at the time I supported the project we had modeling presented to the Executive Committee that suggested it was financially viable.

Because of the following reasons I supported the concept of the Union involving itself in the Optima project:

1) MUSU would at some point face VSU – no point sticking your head in the sand on this issue any more – and MUSU needed to broaden its income stream to survive $7 million of compulsory fees vanishing.

2) International students studying in Australia and in particular Melbourne University are ever increasing, hence demand was and is present for such accommodation. Similarly, with close proximity to RMIT University any accommodation could easily be marketed to both institutions.

3) MUSU did not have capital in order to outlay in regard to physically constructing buildings, or acquiring assets. The crux of the Optima project was that Optima alone had the financial burden of delivering the project.

4) The Union should involve itself in commercial arrangements that are linked to its area of expertise (not in any way a complement) and that is students. It is not as though the Union was investing in South African diamond mines!

5) The Union would maintain and manage the facility – something I considered was within the scope of the $1.2 million Building Services Department of the Union. Even if the Union could not deliver such services well, I thought it could nonetheless deliver them.

6) Even in a worse case scenario, if the project broke even, and the Union was providing a quality service – in comparison to the sub-standard student accommodation many international students live in – then the Union had achieved its goal – something you yourself admit Brent, as making life better for students.

7) Similarly there were endless possibilities for the Union to provide additional services through such a project, emergency housing, conference accommodation etc.

Regarding the cost structure, the proof is here today to suggest that it could have worked. Go to the corner of Queensberry and Swanston Streets – and find the ugly pastel student accommodation block, then read the sign advertising studio apartments to rent for $265 per week….. Optima wasn’t perfect. It needed to be renegotiated, it’s terms needed to be clarified etc. But I didn’t approve the contract I along with the Executive authorized management and Union officers to negotiate and execute the contract. I supported and voted for the project. However the devil was in the detail and it is disappointing the operational management could not have done better for the Union. I wasn’t responsible for that detail, however I made numerous attempts to rectify the failings of the agreement in 2003 and was prevented from doing so by the Executive.

Brent, you have by your own admission suggested that I am to be classed as a different player in the MUSU affair in comparison to others. In fact you state:

Now, I'm not saying that Scott has done anything as bad as what Andrew, Ben and Darren have alleged to have done - setting up companies utilising pseudonymns to gain contracts from an administration they are friends with, and predecessors to.

But you don’t agree with Michelle? Firstly can I let you and all others who have bothered to read your blog know that I have not in any way financially benefited from the MUSU. Quite the reverse, if you add the amount I have spent on legal fees both in and out of office, and costs in funding election campaigns I have come out with significantly less money than I started. I have submitted my bank records to the Supreme Court and they show a steady decline in my life savings since taking office in 2003. The money I have saved since I was born has gone. I have spent over $20,000 on legal fees since 2003. I spent this on many matters, including having representation to oppose the Union’s liquidation, fulfilling my fudiciary responsiblities as Chairman and providing Legal Advice to the Executive in MUSU’s dying days, defending action to get me sacked as President and more recently having representation in the Liquidators examination. You may just “have to take my word” that I haven’t financially benefited from the Union Brent. But I challenge anyone to prove otherwise. It’s fine to sit in abscurity and insight inuendo and contribute to the rumour mill – but please can you people either put up or shut up? Please.

You have misunderstood Michelle’s posting in relation to student politics. Student Unions are about making lives better for students. Student Representative are there to fight for better conditions for students. Student politics is a completely different game – and in all honesty if you haven’t realised that yet Brent, you are a slow learner. Michelle’s point was that I like all student politicans at election time tried to put my factions interests ahead of all other political groupings. I am sorry, but that is how the game goes and if you can point out any student political group who doesn’t do so your most likely pointing at serial losers. Left, right, conservative, moderate, radical, animal vegetable and mineral come election time put their interests first and that is the point Michelle made. For someone who is promoting the sale of “State of the Union” on your blog I would have thought you may have been able to work that one out.

I am flattered that you suggest that I am a good man. But I am confused that you suggest that I have to take responsibility for everything that has occurred at MUSU simply because I was on the Executive. It comes down to knowledge and intent Brent. I did not vote in favor of anything in order to receive benefit in any way. I did not vote on any motion in order to apply sympathetic treatment to friends, political allies or aquaintances. I acted on advice from management and I acted in what I saw as the best interests of the Union. Brent – I have already explained some Optima issues but let me expand a fraction more. I voted on a motion to allow management and Union officers to go away and negotitate terms and execute the contract. I voted for the concept, I voted for the project, I am not a lawyer (at the moment), and as a nineteen year old I relied on those professionals around me to negotiate the contract. The end result was an agreement that needed to be further clarified. The contract was silent in many areas, it needed some greater detail in others. But in 2003 the Executive simply refused to (a) recognise the existing contract, (b) deal with Optima to clarify terms, (c) fulfill MUSU’s obligations under the agreement and (d) renegotiate terms that were more favorable to MUSU. Their refusal to do so resulted in a dispute arising. I should point out in 2003 I did not have a vote on the Executive – I was held responsible for their actions, but couldn’t even have a say.

In regard to Marbain, again I did not know then or even now, who exactly benefited from this company. My knowledge is as good as yours on this one. But again, I voted in favor of awarding this contract because it was the superior tender in comparison to those that management provided to the Executive. U-bar was a financial disgrace and by outsourcing the bar there was a three hundred thousand dollar turn around – the real winner here is MUSUL, I bet they are laughing. Could you please let me know what is the issue with the Bar? Is it its outsourcing or who it went to? Because if it is the former it really has nothing to do with Marbain then does it?

Again, with B V Sachsen, I followed advice, and chose the best tender that was presented from management. Market research was part of the Union’s Strategic Plan and John Gunn, CEO of MUSU provided me with a short list of tenders. I simply chose the tender I thought was the most competitive and would provide the best service for the Union. I am sorry if you think there was anything else behind this but really on my part there wasn’t. I note that in the 2004 MUSUL budget, a similar amount that was spent on BV Sachsen was allocated for Market Research. Maybe not so irrelevant after all? But also let’s not forget that the work that BV Sachsen did was generally of a high standard and appreciated by the Executive.

Brent, I have testified regarding my knowledge (or lack thereof) in relation to the beneficiaries of these companies. I was in the dark – and in the end I voted as per what I thought was best for the Union at that time, in that situation. There is no conspiracy on my part, I know that this will be disappointing to many, but sometimes the truth really is not that exciting.

I am happy for the people of Ibbott Ward to know that I took advice and acted in what I thought was in the best interest of the organisation. I believe that out of MUSU I have gained many skills that would hold me in fine stead to represent the people of Ibbott Ward. But Brent, if you think that I am only MUSU-dimensional then you are wrong. There is much more to myself than one and a half years involvement in the quagmire that was MUSU. I have a strong record of local community involvement. I have lived in this area for almost twenty years. I have worked in representational issues in this area intermitedly for seven years. I know this area like the back of my hand and in all honesty I do have what it takes to work hard and represent the people of Ibbott Ward. MUSU has taught me a great deal about more than you can imagine and even when it was a bad experience it was a good experience.

I think that you have raised a very important issue Brent and one that quite possibly has spurred much of your bitterness in relation to MUSU – I did vote to have your pay reduced by three quarters in 2002. I did so because my faction resolved to do so. I am sorry for the hurt that this may have caused you – but it wasn’t my idea, it wasn’t my vendetta, and I will put my hand up to being a nineteen year old who at the time “toed the party line”. It wasn’t personal Brent. I have not ever slagged you off, I haven’t made allegation against you. I don’t have any need to, nor interest in doing so. Simply put I don’t know you Brent and nor you me. But I think it is time you got over the cutting of your pay some three years ago – if anyone has cause to be bitter over MUSU its probably more me than you.

Before I go I would just like to add, as for the anonymous commentator who wishes to provide myself and Michelle relationship/political/life advice, thanks but no thanks. We’ll only be running to you when Dr Phil’s TV program gets cut or Borders ‘self help’ section runs out of books. I mean really who the hell do you think you are? I am flattered that you want to take a role in our relationship but hey, three’s a crowd buddy.

In conclusion, I haven’t changed my view Brent, I don’t believe I have anything to be ashamed of.

Do you have one sugar or two?

Scott Crawford

Candidate for Ibbott Ward

2005 Banyule City Council Elections

How long is a long time?

Andrew Landeryou last Friday, according to the Herald Sun:

Mr Landeryou last Friday denied in court ever receiving the summons to attend the liquidator's examination.

He told Justice Julie Dodds-Streeton he returned from overseas as soon as became aware of the arrest warrant.

Andrew Landeryou on Tuesday, according to himself:

Hi Brent,

Long Time Reader, First Time Poster.

Anonymous slander


It's fantastic when you get home, check your email and see that there have been so many comments. And then you read them, and realise that there were several very similar anonymous comments within minutes of each other. And then you read this anonymous stuff:

Brent is the worst kind of moraliser. He was responsible for a corrupt deal costing the union $40000. It was initiated irregularly. The profits were sent to a friend of Brent's and authorised without a signature.Brent Houghton is corrupt! Whats happened to the money now Brent? Brent you better write a long post. You have some explaining to do.
Here is the Real Students policy document from the September 2001 elections:

Real Students policy. "Create a new Student Lounge in the North Dining Room with televisions, couches, a coffee cart and snack machines." Posted by Hello

And here is the capital budget that was passed by both House and Services committee and Student Council in late 2001.

Capital Budget for 2002. Note H&S 01 - North Dining Room Posted by Hello

Darren Ray's memo to House and Services committee:

Internal Memo page 1. From Darren Ray, recommending the purchase of furniture. Posted by Hello

Internal Memo page 2. Darren's original motion. Posted by Hello

Internal Memo page 3. Floor plan. Posted by Hello

Internal Memo page 4. Original Ramler quote, page 1. Posted by Hello

Internal Memo page 5. Original Ramler quote, page 2. Posted by Hello

The House and Services meeting that passed the motion regarding the North Dining Room furniture.

House and Services 02/14. Attendance. Posted by Hello

House and Services 02/14. North Dining Room. Posted by Hello

And the purchase order with Ramler. This is the document that I neglected to get stamped and signed, but, as you can see above, was budgeted for and passed by the committee. I negotiated the price down with Ramler, after receiving a quote for a lower price on the Dianna chairs. If I can find the alternative quote, I'll post it too:

Order with Ramler. Note the total amount is $30717.50, rather than $32,077 in the President's memo. Posted by Hello

Apparently all that means I am dodgy and corrupt. Oh, and interesting news about Ben Cass being somehow allegedly being involved - news to me. I'll guess we'll add that to the GTS, Optima and Marbain deals then, shall we?

Good night.

PS - Anonymous comments have been turned off.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Any regrets?

I titled my first post on the Scott for Ibbott campaign 'Do these people have no shame?' Scott replied, saying that 'I have nothing to be ashamed of.'

My question to Scott is, do you have any regrets? I mean, you might not feel ashamed of your actions in the whole dispute, but in retrospect, do you wish, for example, that you didn't agree to the Optima deal? Or after the deal was signed, do you regret saying to The Australian (p3, June 13, 2003):

Student union president Scott Crawford said last night he was confident the lease was a blue-chip investment and would provide significant revenue for the union.

"The revenue we will receive will be significantly greater than the outlay, and this will be reinvested into student services," he said.

Throughout this whole episode, I haven't heard one mention of any word like 'wrong', 'regret', 'apology' or wait for it, 'sorry' from any of the main student representatives. The downfall of MUSUi has always been the result of someone else - whether that be previous student administrations, the management of the organisation, the university, or in some cases, a dead man. It has been galling to sit through, and read about, endless hours of testimony in the MUSUi liquidation like this:

Darren Ray, student union president in 2002, told the court that in November 2002, when he recommended to student councillors that Marbain be handed the bar lease for nothing, he suspected Mr Landeryou and Mr Cass controlled it. Asked why he did not alert fellow councillors to his suspicions, Mr Ray said: "I did not see why that would be of particular relevance."
Absolutely nothing approaching remorsefulness, or any comprehension of the enormity of the situation.

Now, I'm not saying that Scott has done anything as bad as what Andrew, Ben and Darren have alleged to have done - setting up companies utilising pseudonymns to gain contracts from an administration they are friends with, and predecessors to. But I don't agree with Michelle, Scott's girlfriend, when she comments:

Scott did not financially benefit from any of the deals. While some of you may have a problem with the way he behaved whilst in office, his conduct at elections and his propensity to put his faction's interests above others, I say " So what?" Isn't that what student politics is all about? The same pattern of behaviour has been perpetuated year after year, by ALL political groups.

Firstly, the last time I checked, student politics was supposed to be about making life better for students.

Secondly, if Scott hasn't financially benefited from any of the deals, and we'll have to take his word on that, that doesn't suddenly absolve himself of any responsibility for what has occurred. As the saying goes,

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing"
You were on the Executive that passed the Optima and Marbain deals, and the President when BV Sachsen got its lucrative contract. I reckon that is of interest to the electors of Ibbott ward, when they read that you "chaired a variety of multi-million dollar not-for-profit organisations" and that Scott "has the necessary skills and experience".

On another point, Scott says that he cannot recall "exchange in dialogue with you in any memorable instance". Neither can I. I can remember trying to get Scott to engage in a debate at a Student Council meeting on whether it was conscionable that he, along with Tim and Darren, cut my pay by three-quarters, without giving me the opportunity to present my "case". That's a story for another day...but it might explain why I might not go out of my way to be best buddies with Scott.

Perhaps when you've answered some questions, Scott, we can have that coffee.