002KennetJeffJacketPhoto: Bigfooty.com

 

Jeff Kennett became Victoria’s 43rd Premier on 6 October 1992, after being swept to power in a landslide after the disastrous  and financial crippling Cain/Kirner Labor Government.

The Kennett Government immediately began the process of reforming the Victorian Government with the sale of Victoria’s electricity assets to the private sector at very generous prices, which enabled the State to pay off large parts of its debt from an estimated $33 Billion down to $5.5 Billion. The benefits of electricity privatisation are still felt today with Victorian consumers and businesses facing comparably lower electricity charges than those of New South Wales and Queensland which are Government owned.

The Kennett Government ended the practice of featherbedding at state owned, and soon to be privatised, utilities. Featherbedding was a term given to the hiring of more personnel than were needed to operate the business, which gave enormous benefits to the union movement with increased membership, at the expense of consumers and taxpayers. 

The Kennett Government also introduced case-mix funding for Victoria’s hospitals which fundamentally changed their efficiency of operation. Instead of receiving a standard indexed budget each year, Victoria’s hospitals received funding based on how many patients were treated and the nature of the therapies. This logical and prudent use of taxpayers funds has led the way for hospital treatment in Australia, with the Federal Government extending the case-mix formula across the Commonwealth in its negotiations with the States. To this day Victoria continues to have the best functioning hospitals in Australia.

Some other notable benefits of the Kennett Government are, but not limited to:

– building of Melbourne’s first multi billion dollar tollway, City Link, which linked the Westgate, Monash and Tullamarine Freeways and was strongly opposed by the Labor Party;

– building and completion of the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, also known colloquially as “Jeff’s Shed”; 

– establishment of the Docklands Precinct, Australia’s largest urban renewal project;

– removal of traffic lights on the South Eastern Freeway at Toorak, Burke and Warrigal Roads and renaming what was originally the South Eastern Freeway and the Mulgrave Freeway the Monash or M1 Freeway;

– building the Melbourne Museum;

– commissioning and commencement of the cutting edge Federation Square project, beginning the demolition of the old Gas and Fuel Buildings on Flinders Street;

– building of Melbourne’s Sport and Aquatic Centre at Albert Park;

– privatisation of Melbourne’s public transport system whose unionised workforce were a source of constant industrial disputes with government;

– redevelopment of Albert Park Lake as a showcase for the newly acquired Formula 1 Grand Prix;

– completion of large sections of the Western Ring Road;

– facilitating the construction of Docklands Stadium;

– creating Melbourne’s free City Circle Tram;

– encouraging the new Crown Entertainment precinct and Casino at Southbank;

– $160 million expansion of the National Gallery of Victoria International (NGV International);

– $100 million for refurbishment of the State Library of Victoria;

– successfully regained Victoria’s AAA credit rating resulting in a fall in interest costs on state debt;

successfully bidding for the 2006 Commonwealth Games, and;

– liberalising Victoria’s Liquor Licencing Laws, allowing the establishment of Melbourne’s iconic laneways bar scene.

Jeff Kennett resigned from Victorian politics in 1999 and established “Beyond Blue”, an organisation dedicated to helping people suffering from the debilitating effects of depression.

Digital by James Hammon