hirstandmcewenwebCR DON Hill and Cr Andrew McEwen, both of them candidates in the South Gippsland Shire Council elections, have added fuel to the fire that they are somehow involved in a conspiracy to rig the South Gippsland Shire Council elections.

Both deny the claims of a conspiracy and both say they are fiercely independent.

But the evidence seems to indicate otherwise.

First it was Cr Hill who came out with a combined ‘how to vote’ card, authorised by himself, in which all six candidates give their top preference to him.

Now, Cr Andrew McEwen has done the same thing, not similar, the same.

Using the same layout, same typestyles and wording but with different names and photos for the Strzelecki ward; he has authorised a ‘how to vote’ card in which all five of the candidates direct their preferences to him.

It was supposed to be six as well, but more of that later.

This time, however, the candidates admit they are working together to get one, two or even three of their number elected.

“We agreed to work together,” said Strzelecki ward candidate, Viv Pepper.

“It’s about economies of scale for me. I’m not in a position to send notices out to 6000 householders on my own, after they changed the rules on ‘how to vote’ cards not going in the voter packs.

“I’ve had long talks with Andrew over a number of years on a range of issues and I agreed to support him because I believe he’s the most progressive person on council. It was actually him that encouraged me to stand.

“There’s no question that we think, after 24 years on council that Bob’s (Newton) time is up and there’s also no love lost between us and Lorraine (Brunt) but I don’t want to be quoted on that (how each ‘independent’ candidate came to number their preferences the same way).

“It’s part of the movement for change but, definitely, I want to get elected,” he said, rejecting that he was anyone’s dummy, although admitting he will pay between $250 and $300 to be part of Cr McEwen’s mailout.

Someone who wasn’t part of the mailout in Strzelecki by candidates McEwen, Pepper, Wanless, Hirst and Amor was another Strz candidate Ian Nicholas.

“I got it in the mail today and I can’t believe it. They’ve done it to try and guarantee that Andrew gets back in,” Mr Nicholas said.

“Andrew’s organising it for sure. They said to me if we do it this way, you’re guaranteed of one, probably two but I wasn’t having a bar of it,” he said.

“We were encouraged to put Bob 10th and Lorraine 9th.

“I totally rejected the idea of being lured into what I believe is a voting block. It’s crazy. And as a result they’ve put me seven or eight.

“I rang up Andrew and Frank Hirst to talk about preferences after the ballot draw and they said if you’re not going in with us, you’ll be 6th or 7th. I said no.”

So, is it enough to say that because the combined ‘how to vote’ cards are the same, and the voting patterns virtually identical and that Crs McEwen and Hill are working together to have a profound impact on the 2016 election?

Or are they all truly independent candidates who’ll remain independent when and if they get to the council table.

Ultimately it will be up to the voters to decide.

Pictured above, candidates Frank Hirst and Andrew McEwen at a recent candidates’ forum in Korumburra.