Cr John Burt is owed an apology, says Premier Denis Napthine

File picture of John Burt

File picture of John Burt

Premier Denis Napthine says City of Ballarat councillor John Burt is owed an apology over allegations of mayoral tampering.

Two Ballarat councillors are claiming Cr Burt told a meeting on November 13 the premier wanted a Liberal-aligned mayor.

Speaking in Ballarat on Friday, Dr Napthine described the allegations as “absolutely false, absolutely baseless and an outrageous smear against a reputable person like councillor John Burt”. 

“I think that Sharon Knight and the Labor councillors concerned with this outrageous, baseless smear ought to apologise,” Dr Napthine said.

“If they had a shred of decency in any part of their body they should apologise to a hard working community person like John Burt and they should perhaps add an apology to me as well.”

Councillors Des Hudson, a Labor-party member, and John Philips, an independent, supported the allegations after they were raised in Parliament by Ballarat West MP Sharon Knight on Tuesday.

Cr Burt has not commented since denying the allegations on Tuesday.

Asked what she thought of calls for an apology, Ms Knight said the premier had “a lot to apologise for himself”.

She said she raised the matter in parliament on budget day after hearing about the allegations from “a number of sources”.

“It wasn’t just one person,” Ms Knight said.

“Based on that information I thought it was important enough to go directly to the source, directly to the premier and ask him in parliament whether that happened or not. 

“He has denied it. 

“There seems to be some discrepancies around this story. The premier is saying no it didn’t happen, you have two councillors who are saying yes it did and I guess what I want is to get some clarity around what actually happened.”

Labor Party leader Daniel Andrews said he believed there was “a very real concern” that the premier had inappropriately interfered in the election.

Asked if he had any evidence to back the claims, Mr Andrews said there was “a pattern of behaviour”. 

“(Dr Napthine) gets all raging and angry, demanding apologies and all those sorts of things, and then his story starts to change,” he said.

“The premier’s just got a glass jaw on this.”

A previous version of this story stated Peter Innes was one of the two councillors who supported the allegations. This was incorrect. 

rachel.afflick@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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