John Burt pressed for Liberal mayor to lead Ballarat

Former mayor John Burt at a council meeting at Ballarat Town Hall in September, 2013. PICTURE: ADAM TRAFFORD

Former mayor John Burt at a council meeting at Ballarat Town Hall in September, 2013. PICTURE: ADAM TRAFFORD

JOHN Burt has broken his silence, admitting he told four councillors to elect a Liberal-aligned mayor for the betterment of Ballarat.

"What I said was we needed to have a mayor that was aligned to the present government" - Former mayor John Burt

Speaking to The Courier on Thursday, Cr Burt revealed at meetings with four other councillors on November 13, days before the mayoral poll, he said Ballarat needed to have a mayor that was aligned to the present government.

Cr Burt said he, not Premier Denis Napthine, was behind the request.

Timeline of party politics in Ballarat City Council

"The meetings between the five councillors which were held at Ballarat Specialist School... what I said was we needed to have a mayor that was aligned to the present government and the reason for that was for the betterment of Ballarat in my opinion," Cr Burt said.

Asked if he stated in the meetings that it was the premier who wanted a Liberal-aligned mayor, Cr Burt said he did not.

"No absolutely," he said.

"I know that's being said, but I did not. 

"The impression they could have had and I'll give them the benefit of the doubt... I guess I'm inferring that but he never, ever said that. Why would he?"

Premier Denis Napthine and former mayor John Burt at an announcement at the Ballarat & District Trotting Club in 2013. PICTURE: ADAM TRAFFORD

Premier Denis Napthine and former mayor John Burt at an announcement at the Ballarat & District Trotting Club in 2013. PICTURE: ADAM TRAFFORD

"I guess I'm inferring that but he (premier Denis Napthine) never, ever said that. Why would he?" - Former mayor John Burt

On May 7, 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 to ensure a Liberal Party member was elected as mayor of Ballarat.

Ms Knight said City of Ballarat records showed the premier met with Cr Burt, the outgoing mayor, in Ballarat on November 7.

Crs Des Hudson and John Philips subsequently revealed Cr Burt invited them to a briefing on November 13, during which he claimed Dr Napthine wanted a Liberal-aligned mayor to lead the council.

But Cr Burt said the Premier never stated, or gave the impression he wanted a Liberal-aligned mayor to lead Ballarat.

"The meeting with the Premier was discussing Ballarat's strategic plan for future years and the sorts of things we want to do as a city," Cr Burt said.

"In attendance at that meeting was the Premier, one or two of his people that were part of the Premier's office, Anthony Schinck and myself.

"(Dr Napthine) asked the question of me whether I was standing as mayor and I said I definitely wasn't."

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