Premier denies allegations of interference in Ballarat mayoral ballot

Blue ribbon day: Premier Denis Napthine and Cr John Burt at the Ballarat & District Trotting Club for the opening of the track in 2013. At left is club president Greg Moy, at right is club treasurer Dennis Foley. PICTURE: ADAM TRAFFORD

Blue ribbon day: Premier Denis Napthine and Cr John Burt at the Ballarat & District Trotting Club for the opening of the track in 2013. At left is club president Greg Moy, at right is club treasurer Dennis Foley. PICTURE: ADAM TRAFFORD

Denis Napthine’s office denies allegations the Premier interfered with Ballarat’s mayoral ballot, but admits the mayorship was discussed prior to the poll.

It follows claims Cr Burt told at least two Ballarat councillors Dr Napthine wanted a Liberal-aligned mayor to lead the council.

On Wednesday, a spokesperson for Dr Napthine said the Premier did not ask Cr Burt to approach other councillors about the mayoral vote.

Nor did the Premier ever suggest that Ballarat City Council funding would be provided only for a Liberal-aligned mayor.

He said Cr Burt did advise Dr Napthine he would not recontest the position of mayor and provided the reasoning behind his decision. 

“This was the extent of the mayorship discussions,” the spokesperson said.

“The Premier regularly meets with mayors and CEOs while visiting the regions to get an update on local issues and local priority projects.

“The topics of discussion at this meeting were the next steps for the Ballarat West Employment Zone and an update on the progress of the Ballarat Link Road tender. 

“Other items discussed were the Civic Hall/Railway Station Precinct and upcoming events at the Ballarat Specialist School, both of which Cr Burt has an active interest in.”

On Tuesday, the same day the state government released its budget, Ballarat West MP Sharon Knight asked Dr Napthine in Parliament if he had sought to directly influence the ballot.

Ms Knight said City of Ballarat records showed the premier met with Cr Burt in Ballarat on November 7, less than a fortnight before the November 19 mayoral poll.

Ballarat councillors Des Hudson and John Philips said at a briefing on November 13 Cr Burt told them the premier wanted a Liberal-aligned mayor.

They were told council funding depended on it.

Cr Burt denied the allegations.

rachel.afflick@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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