Ten years ago today, the Victorian Electoral Commission ruled I was ineligible to run as an independent candidate in the 1999 Victorian election running against then Premier Jeff Kennett in his seat of Burwood. It was an event that gave birth to Crikey.

After quitting as the AFR’s Sydney-based Rear Window gossip columnist on August 31, the very short-lived campaign was unveiled on September 1, 1999. The Australian led its page five story the next day as follows:

A former senior Kennett Government adviser has thrown a hand grenade into the Victorian election campaign, announcing he will run as an Independent against the Premier and claiming he has damaging information about him.

There was a flurry of phone calls to Fairfax’s Sydney office 10 years ago this afternoon. Unfortunately, the AFR’s publisher and editor-in-chief, Michael Gill, was in no mood to take me back and a request to fill the vacant job editing the SMH’s business gossip column CBD was also rejected.

At 10.28am on the Sunday morning www.jeffed.com went live with what 774 ABC Melbourne morning presenter Jon Faine subsequently dubbed “the treatise”. The full 18,000-word version is worth a read, if only because so many of the names remain familiar to this day: people such as Neil Mitchell, Kerry Stokes, Eric Beecher, Alan Kohler, Terry McCrann, Michael Gill, Jon Faine, Col Allan, Ron Walker, Fred Hilmer, Lachlan Murdoch, Peter Blunden and Kerry Packer, to name just a few.

Faine on the Tuesday morning gave the site a huge run on his show.

jeffed.com ended up having 115,000 page views in 13 days from a standing start, making it more popular than the ALP’s site and a small contributor to what turned out to be the biggest electoral shock in recent Australian history.

Who else can claim to have closed 300 schools, sacked all 210 local councils and 12 judges, cut the public sector by almost 100,000 people, flogged off $30 billion worth of energy assets, hounded the DPP and Auditor General out of office, privatised the entire prison and public transport systems, delivered Melbourne the world’s second biggest tollroad and the world’s largest casino complex and pioneered case-mix funding in the health system.

And don’t forget that Crikey, which emerged as the re-branded Jeffed.com, will have its own 10th birthday to celebrate on February 14 next year.

Peter Fray

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