Terry Maher is a ratbag political correspondent who has covered Victorian elections for BRW, the Financial Review, The Bulletin and The Melbourne Times. He is not to be trusted. But as Mark Twain said: There was things he stretched, but mainly he told the truth. He covered the Melbourne City Council elections for Crikey last year and reckons he was unlucky not to win a Walkley Award for his efforts. Hes dreaming

Crikey, the website, began its some-what illustrious career three years ago when the Mayne man set up Jeffed.com and forsook a possibly-brilliant career in journalism to stand against Jeff Kennett in Burwood. He failed. Crikey began.

I will be covering the seat of Melbourne held by Community Services and Housing Minister, Bronwyn Pike by a massive margin of 12.4 per cent because I live there and its an interesting seat that could change hands for the first time since 1908. The seat of Melbourne is also the yardstick for what is going on in the inner-city Labor heartland, post Cunningham.

Dingbat Crikey Editor Stephen Mayne (now, thank God, not a candidate for the Albert Park seat) will be covering the seat of Albert Park where the Crikey bunker is based, Hugo Kelly (Greens-friendly, fellow-traveller, will be attempting to cover the inner-suburban shrub-hugging heartland of Prahran, Brunswick and Richmond), Hillary Bray (political correspondent extraordonaiere) will attempt to cover the rest. Our sole subscribers are free to try their hand at the other 83 lower house seats. But if you are politically-committed astro-turfers, please declare your hand. If we discover subterfuge, we will be merciless in our revenge.

The District of Melbourne covers a bare 31 square kilometers but houses 32,888 electors with voting rights in this State election. 65 per cent of the electorate regularly use the internet, compared to the State average of 40 per cent. Lindsay Tanner is the Federal Member and it is as comfortable and relaxed as you could possibly get in the Labor heartland of Melbourne. As comfortable and relaxed as you can possibly get, post Cunningham

What makes Melbourne different from any other Labor-voting, inner-suburban, working-class seat and what hones Crikey in on its entrails is that the seat has changed dramatically in both its politics and demographics since the last State election in 1999.

In 1999, the Greens got only 1 per cent of the popular vote. This year they are claiming 20+ per cent and the freehold title on the seat of Melbourne, once they garner all the preferences from all the other candidates. Are they dreaming? Their candidate is Dr Richard Di Natale, a nice chap who we call Dr Dick, but he is the only candidate for the seat who refuses to get down and dirty and talk to Crikey.

Why is it so?

Dr Dick says he has a media manager and he must discuss this with him first. The Labor Party and the Liberal Party do not have this problem. They have both heard of Crikey and are more than happy to talk to us. Dr Dick has met and talked to Stephen Mayne at the recent wedding of mutual friend Alan Young but he still has to think about it. We hope he makes up his mind soon.

Bronwyn Pike, the local ALP member, for one term, has no such inhibitions. She says she is a great supporter of Crikey and was more than happy to sit down and talk to me and Hugo Kelly at Parliament House last Wednesday.

Bomb-throwing Bronny is not your usual Labor Party politician. She is an immaculately dressed, middle-class, Christian woman from Adelaide. But she is also as hard left as Bill Baghdad Hartley, the former State Secretary of the Victorian Branch of the ALP (pre-Whitlam-reform intervention in the early 1970s).

Crikey and Bronny both share an absolute distaste for the up-coming American war on Iraq but Baghdad Bill has spent the last 30-years promoting the cause of Saddam Husseins Iraqi Baathist Socialist Party and its contribution to world peace. Bill was recently unsuccessful in an attempt to get his Iraqi bruvvers to address Trades Hall and offer them an all expenses paid holiday to Baghdad.

Baghdad Bill is a real blast from the past when you consider the clear and present danger that our Diggers now face following the September 11 and October 12 bombings. Bronny doesnt want us to go to war on Iraq (who does?) but she does say that Bush is not helpful in preventing the coming world war. She doesnt want to go as far as Greens Senator Bob Brown when he says our support for Bush on Iraq led to the Bali bombings but she gets close.

Bronny, the Bambi Bracks Minister for Community Services, has recently announced a $1.1 million State Government assistance package to asylum-seekers and refugees: The grants include $100,000 to help the Fitzroy Leaning Network connect refugees to skill development education and training, $400,000 to support long-stay, East Timorese temporary-protection, visa-holders, whom the Commonwealth has asked to leave; and $565,000 for a community building program to provide training, jobs and provide social connections for newly arrived refugees in the inner city.

These sentiments and attitudes are all admiral. Unfortunately, assylum-seekers are not on the electoral role for the District of Melbourne. Post-World Trade Centre, post-Kuta Beach, post-Moscow theatre, post-the Ming Wing shootings at Monash University our local member only wants us to feel relaxed and comfortable just like Prime Miniature John Howards perfect world.

The only hard issue that Bronny will not confront is the $500 million Commonwealth Games Village in Royal Park bang smack in the middle of her electorate. It is the one issue that unites non-Bronwyn Labor, the local Liberals and Greens.

Bronny says its not an issue. Bronny is lying! Bronny says no one cares. Bronny is lying!
Bronny says she has the support of the local community. Bronny is lying! Bronny says she has the support of the Melbourne City Council. Bronny is lying! Bronny says she has the support of the Royal Park Protection Group. Bronny is lying! Bronny says she has the support of the Carlton, Parkville and North Melbourne residents associations. Once again, shes lying.

I dont know if Bronny has the support of the local ALP branches, but, somehow I doubt it.

However, Bronwyn does truthfully say the election for the State seat of Melbourne is a vote for her, or it is a vote for Bali Bob Doyle, the Liberal leader who is going to running strongly on law and order.

Bronny says emphatically that this election is about education, health, jobs and public safety.

Public safety as a political platform, was last used by the Committee for Public Safety during the French Revolution.

Expect the Liberals to stress the war on terror and the Monash shootings as part of their law and order campaign during Bali Bob Doyles election campaign. Expect Bambi Bracks to stress public safety and a new $40 million State war on Terror.

Dont expect the truth!

(ends)

Now, let’s take a look at the piece Hugo Kelly and Terry Maher prepared last week for Crikey subscribers after interviewing Bronny:

BRONWYN PIKE: CAN SHE OUTFLANK THE GREENS FROM THE LEFT?

By Resident Crikey nutters Terry Maher and Hugo Kelly

The first shots have been fired between the two ALP members poised to fight out the inner-suburban seat of Melboune.

A bellwether seat for the Victorian election, with shades of Cunningham, sees Bronwyn Pike facing a pitched battle with Labor rebel and former Lord Mayor, Councillor “Big Kev” Chamberlin.

In a wide-ranging interview with Crikey this morning, the Minister, a hard Left pledge faction member:

* Accused her bitter rival of being “a divisive, unproductive bombthrower” and “a wrecker”

* Claimed he was running for the seat because he thinks its his fiefdom: “He thinks I stole his seat.”

* Talked of a campaign “to win the hearts and minds of the mainstream”, but flagged an adventurous intention to try and outflank the Greens from the left.

She accused Chamberlin of hypocrisy and deceit over his stance on the contentious Parkville Commonwealth Games site, which is to be situated in parkland in her electorate;

Big Kev, we should point out, is a fellow Labor Bruvva, and has not even announced his candidacy for the seat, and the election has yet to be called.

Bronny and Big Kev are only two of the four candidates who are expected to poll Cunningham like 20 per cent slices of the vote in the crucial seat.

When asked about Bronny’s declaration of war on him, Big Kev told Crikey: “I’m not divisive. I just have a different view to Bronwyn. I believe holders of public office are exclusively accountable to the electorate and not the factional warlords of the Labor Party.”

Big Kev says he has never supported the Commonwealth Games village in Royal Park. “Any claims that I have are untrue. Bronwyn also opposed it in the 1999 State election. She’s the one that changed sides.”

Big Kev expects Pike to get 25% of the primary vote – as does Liberal candidiate Sue Bourke and Green candidate Dr Richard Di Natale.

But Bronny was adamant she would poll 50% plus. “I got more than 50% of the primary vote at the last election and I don’t expect to go below 50% this time.”

However, ALP insiders tell Crikey that internal polling shows Bronny on 38 per cent of the vote – a big climb down from her 63 per cent two party preferred vote in the 1999 election.

Bronny says she hasn’t seen any polling. When Crikey suggested the Minister was being disingenuous and she was knee-deep in polls, she said: “It’s really too early to make those kind of assessments. The polling is really preliminary, not definitive.”

‘Melbourne is an intelligent electorate. They will understand a vote for Kevin Chamberlin is a vote for Robert Doyle.”

Matt Viney’s AusPolling has done polling in the electorate, and in Chamberlin’s weakest area – Kensington and Flemington – he’s outpolling Pike 3-1.

While Pike, a former teacher and social welfare advocate for the Uniting Church, is associated with the hard left Pledge faction, her pragmatic attitude to the party’s factions is a sign of times Labor finds itself in: “No one believes Labor’s factions are ideological any more, do they?”, she told us over coffee, with her political flunky Anthony carbines, by her side, in parliament’s non-members dining room.