As the final part of Kevin Balshaw’s series on the Kennett years, his former speechwriter has provided a chronological list of the Kennett reforms from his first term which the Fin Review editorialised last week was long and distinguished.
In the first week, the number of departments was reduced from 22 to 13, subsequently in the first term to 11. Second electorate officers’ positions abolished, MP allowances reduced, and seven parliamentary secretaries appointed. At the start of the second term, Kennett announced on April 3, 1996, a further reduction to eight departments. At the same time, the ministry was reduced from 21 to 18, although there was also the appointment of an additional parliamentary secretary, taking the number to eight – one for each department. Also in the first week, the Victorian Commission of Audit was established.
October 27 – opening of the 52nd Parliament. One of first announcements was a decision to cut planning red tape and speed up planning permits for inner Melbourne.
November, 1992, the Government brought down a new budget, and in a three-week parliamentary session – often running all night – passed more than 30 major pieces of legislation. Included were an overhaul of workers’ compensation, new standards for public sector performance, reduction of the public sector, the reform of public enterprises, establishment of a new central authority (Treasury Corporation) to manage state debt, flexible employment agreements under the Employee Relations Act (not actually brought in until March, 1993), and an agreement was struck with the public transport unions to reduce the transport system’s massive annual losses (in the order of $500 million a year). Bill passed to enable 24-hour shop trading in the CBD and Southbank.
The new budget abolished the three-cent Pyramid petrol levy (although in 1993 a three-cent levy was imposed to fund the upgrade of the road network), and it introduced the $100 per household State Deficit Levy (removed 1995), imposed 10% increases in gas, electricity and public transport charges, and increased motor registration fees.
The 17.5% holiday leave loading was abolished.
Legal reforms begin with Jan Wade announcing the abolition of unsworn statements by defendants.
WorkCover Bill passed – first step in reducing liabilities and levies and shifting emphasis to return to work.
Public Sector Mangement Bill Passed.
Public Sector Bill passed – public sector employees no longer required to join a union, removal of arrangement to deduct union fees from salaries. And the Employee Relations Bill made union closed shops illegal.
Dec 1 – abolition of the Accident Compensation Commission, WorkCare Appeals Board, Accident Compensation Tribunal and Victorian Accident Rehabilitation Council; establishment of Victorian WorkCover Authority.
Dec. 15 – Kennett defers a 4.9% Commonwealth public service and MP pay rise flow-on to Victoria.
Mission Energy agrees to lift its stake in Loy Yang B power station from 40% to 51%. This marked the beginning of the privatisation program, along with the step to divide the old SEC into three entities – generation, transmission and retailing. However, the first actual privatisation involved the sale of Heatane Gas to Elgas for $129.5 million.
1993 – Jan. 31 – Construction of the first Agenda 21 project, the City Circle Tram loop, announced.
Jan. 31 – Feb. 20 – Kennett and Stockdale embark on financial mission to Asia, Europe and North America aimed to rollover debt and restore Victoria’s credit rating.
1993 – casemix funding introduced for hospitals; mandatory reporting of child abuse introduced.
April 6 – the first Autumn Economic Statement cuts spending by $731 million over two years, raises revenue by $112 million and sets target of eliminating the current account deficit by 1994-95.
May 13 – WorkCover unfunded liabilities down from nearly $2 billion to $700 million. And at the end of June, average premiums were reduced from 3% to 2.5%.
May 18 – Local Government reform begins with announcement of establishment of the City of Greater Geelong – six councils into one, and the appointment of commissioners to oversee the process.
July – Victorian Plantations Corporation comes into operation; strategic partnership agreement signed with Telecom (Telstra) for government telecommunications services; schools of the future pilot programs get under way (Don Hayward – Is Don, is good – later to be superseded under Phil Gude by schools of the third millennium (as I said at the time, schools of the future was a title designed to last forever; the second was going to be in need of a new name in just 900 years); Food Victoria organisation established to promote development of Victoria’s food and food processing industries; V/Line Freight’s trucking fleet contracted out to TNT.
August – Planning Minister announces reduction in the number of residential zones in Melbourne from 150 to 10; Met buses contracted out; I.T. centre established at Ballarat, its first tenant to be the group selected to handle the outsourced I.T. functions of VicRoads and the Public Transport Corporation.
September – Government industry statement launched; 6th – Crown selected to build and operate the casino; 7th – budget comes in at a current account deficit of $717 million, $149 million below forecast; 28th – new City of Melbourne announced.
1993 – October: Separation of Morwell Briquette and Power complex from SEC to create Energy Brix Australia; sale of Prince Henry’s Hospital site; sale of Vistel’s transmission assets; reduction in number of public holidays from 13 to 10; WorkCover liability down to $396 million; corporatisation of Melbourne Water; rural water industry reforms; corporatisation of regional veterinary laboratories.
1993 – November: Government reduces stake in Amrad following private sector capital raising; Standard and Poors removes negative credit rating, stabilising an AA rating; Kevan Gosper appointed chairman of commissioners of the new City of Melbourne; Kennett and Fahey sign agreement on joint reform of their electricity industries to ensure establishment of a national electricity grid by 1995.
1994 – January: Attorney General appoints working party to look into changes to the legal profession; refinancing of National Tennis Centre.
1994 – March: Moody’s upgrades rating from A-1 to Aa3; announcement the Formula One Grand Prix will be in Melbourne from 1996; partial float of GFE Resources Ltd, exploration and production subsidiary of Gas and Fuel Corp.
1994 – April: Review launched into Alpine Resorts Commission; Kennett details taxi industry reforms; Centaur International selected to manage and operate State’s four regional veterinary labs; rationalisation of government accommodation; sale of Vicmint, a government owned peppermint oil business; Victoria’s first breast feeding guidelines announced (lacking only the appointment of breast monitors); $20 million plan to redevelop Albert Park; Vicomputing, Government’s centralised computer business, privatised.
1994 – June: Casino and Gaming Authority commences operation; 30th – Premier officially opens Crown.
1994 – August: Consultative process for port reforms begins.
1994 – September: Restructure Gas and Fuel Corp begins with its split into two new statutory corporations.
1994-95 – Tabcorp float for $675 million; Grain Elevators Board sold to a consortium of farmers; SEC advances towards sale with the establishment of five new business units; agreement reached between the Commonwealth and States to set national efficiency targets for transport, electricity, gas and other key services with a claimed potential to lift national productivity by $23 billion a year.
Same year the Agenda 21 program was in full swing with construction of the Exhibition Centre, the permanent Crown Casino, new Magistrates’ Court and redevelopment of Albert Park – and commitments were made to build the Sports and Aquatic Centre at Albert Park and demolish the old Gas and Fuel towers to make way for Federation Square.
1995 – Victorian Government records an overall surplus for the first time, ahead of schedule. The State Deficit Levy removed. Local Government restructure has been completed, reducing the number of councils from 210 to 78 – and councils are implementing competitive tendering.
1995 – City Link announced, then estimated at $1.2 billion, the biggest infrastructure investment in Australia since the Snowy Mountains hydro-electricity scheme. Also initial announcement of Docklands redevelopment.
1995 – Vicnet established, and Kennett announces the online government initiative to put government online by 2001, and establishment of the Communications and Multimedia Task Force.
1996 – election campaign initiatives include his Victorian Youth Development Program (the cadets’ scheme) and the carers’ initiative ($100 million over four years).