Thomas HunterDecember 1, 2010 – 11:51AM
Premier-elect Ted Baillieu has committed to honour all of his election promises after receiving a positive report card on the state of Victoria’s finances.
Mr Baillieu, who will be formally sworn in as premier tomorrow, said that “preliminary advice” on the state’s budget position did not threaten any of the commitments he made during the election campaign.
“The preliminary advice we now have received is that there are no surprises in the financial position … so we will be proceeding with our commitments,” he told 3AW this morning.
Ted Baillieu and wife Robyn with deputy Peter Ryan and wife Trish walk past portraits of past premiers in Queens Hall, Parliament House. Photo: Craig Abraham
“I have not had a detailed briefing. We have committed to conducting an audit into the financial arrangements and positions in this state, but my preliminary advice is that there would be no surprises.”
But Mr Baillieu flagged a possible showdown with Prime Minister Julia Gillard over the federal-state health deal struck by his predecessor John Brumby early last month.
“The problem with the health deal is we really don’t know the ultimate contents of it,” he said.
“We know little about the consequences for country hospitals or specialist hospitals, little about the consequences for the dividing line for the funding of hospitals and Medicare … Until we have had a detailed briefing I’m not going to say this is a great thing. I’ll be reserving the right to renegotiate it.”
Ms Gillard, however, said the new Victorian premier had little choice but to accept the deal.
“Victoria has signed the health deal,” she told 3AW.
“I do expect states to honour commitments they have made … There aren’t opt-out clauses. Arrangements between governments partly rely on written documents and they partly rely on political understandings and honourable treatment between leaders.”
On the question of his election commitments, Mr Baillieu said some would take years to implement, including his promise to enact all of the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission’s findings.
He said the former government’s claim that buying back properties and putting power lines underground could cost $20 billion was “nonsense” and a “misrepresentation” of the commission’s recommendations.
Mr Baillieu said his government would honour its promise to contribute $50 million to “examining over 10 years the best possible solution for minimising bushfire risk (from overhead power lines) in high-risk areas”.
But on the contentious issue of buying back homes in bushfire zones, he said it was “not going to be an overnight process”.
“I can’t put a handle on (how many years it will take), but it will take a number of years,” he said.
“I think it will stretch beyond the first term of government. I don’t think there is any doubt about that.”
Mr Baillieu also downplayed the possibility of former premier Jeff Kennett becoming a close advisor and said recently retired federal parliamentarian Petro Georgiou would not be employed as his chief of staff.
Nor would he be drawn on whether ousted premier John Brumby would be offered a job if he chose to quit Parliament.
“I wouldn’t rule it out but it’s not something I have been contemplating,” he said.