Ryde Mayor Bill Pickering – who was punched but not injured at a polling booth in Putney during the Ryde by-election – distributed an inflammatory pamphlet in the week leading up to it.
It’s understood that the pamphlet particularly focused on Independent Candidate Victor Tagg and attempted to smear him as “corrupt” and that yesterday’s incident was provoked and possibly orchestrated by Pickering.
“Independent candidate Vic Tagg was talking to two local voters at the Putney booth when Pickering jumped between them and told them not to vote for Tagg because he was corrupt,” a witness, who spoke to Save Ryde on the condition of anonymity, said.
Pickering was then allegedly hit.
Interestingly, the punch was initially described as a “coward punch” and this appears to have been encouraged by Pickering – who posted this on his company Twitter account – and his very few party allies.
Early, breaking news reports made reference to a “coward punch”, which was a term that came out assault incidents 2004 involving excessive alcohol and some form of premeditation.
This scenario was quite different – and was borne of provocation.
In a way, that punch is not just from Vic Tagg, but the broader community of Ryde who know that Pickering had been involved in the manipulation of ICAC to the extent that it had targeted six former and serving Ryde councillors.
Those councillors had opposed an unpopular and calamitous plan for a “twin tower” development at Ryde. More than $5 million was spent on a conga line of consultants without so much as a sod being turned.
Pickering and the former general manager at Ryde, John Neish, spearheaded the failed proposal and lobbied other councillors for support amid a six-six split on council. The development would have generated up to a billion dollars in revenue for Lend Lease, the proposed joint venture partner, but very little for Ryde’s residents.
There was plenty of fat there to skim from.
ICAC didn’t investigate this though.
It investigated advertisements run in a local newspaper worth an estimated $4,000 and it seriously bungled this – but no one noticed. No one wanted to notice.
Pickering was clearly hoping to stay overnight at Ryde hospital to get some good publicity for himself. That didn’t happen.
“He was presented at Ryde Hospital and discharged from the hospital yesterday,” a hospital spokeswoman said.
It’s a miracle he hasn’t been punched in this way sooner.
Save Ryde does not condone the use of violence, but when the legal framework we have in NSW lets down taxpayers and political interference runs riot – it’s understandable that frustrations manifest in this way.
If the Liberals would like to do some worthwhile fundraising they could set up a Bill Pickering punching booth. There would be a queue down the street.