Baillieu pledges to drive economy to greater heights

Premier Ted Baillieu at his Melbourne Treasury offices where he is celebrating two years in power.PREMIER Ted Baillieu has promised a new government agency to aggressively pursue national and international business opportunities as he attempts to turn the spotlight towards the state economy.
Nanjing Night Net

On the eve of the two-year anniversary of his election win, Mr Baillieu on Thursday night used a Liberal fund-raising event in Geelong to unveil plans for a new investment body to be modelled on the Kennett government’s Victorian Major Events Company, predicting it will be a driving force for the state economy.

In a speech mapping out an economic strategy following criticism from business figures, Mr Baillieu said the new agency – to be known as Major Investment Victoria – would have an independent board and chairman reporting to him. He said it would be responsible for seeking business opportunities in a push to beat rival jurisdictions.

In an interview before the second anniversary of his November 27 election win, Mr Baillieu also predicted Victoria’s population could keep expanding indefinitely without eroding Melbourne’s liveability, despite warning the state will face huge challenges playing ”catch-up” on infrastructure after decades of underinvestment.

”We’ve demonstrated that we can grow and grow well,” Mr Baillieu said on Thursday. ”In terms of liveability I am absolutely confident that if you put design upfront, our liveability need not be compromised.”

By 2050 Melbourne’s population is expected to increase by half, adding an extra 2 million people to the current 4.1 million. A government-funded report predicted this will require an extra eight hospitals, 67 secondary schools, 125 maternal and child health centres and 222 kindergartens.

Mr Baillieu said the infrastructure shortfall posed enormous challenges for Victoria, expressing his frustration about a growing dependence on revenues from the Commonwealth. He said about half of Victoria’s revenues were handed out by Canberra, leaving the state reliant on its own property and payroll taxes.

But he stopped short of calling for a rethink of revenue-raising powers between the states and the Commonwealth.

Mr Baillieu also ruled out reshuffling his frontbench, saying Treasurer Kim Wells had done a ”fantastic job” keeping the budget in surplus and dealing with economic challenges.

He also vigorously defended his record over the past two years, claiming his government had delivered on its promises and announced a record investment in infrastructure despite financial challenges.

”We have delivered what we said we would do,” he said. ”We have put some very substantial reforms in place, we have led the debate in a whole range of areas, we have met the challenges thrown up since the election, be it floods, be it $7 billion of [revenue] write-downs … and we have got a record level of infrastructure.”

The comments came as Labor released its own plan for the state economy, with 67 priorities to boost jobs and the economy. The policy, which included plans to restore TAFE funding and set up a new infrastructure body, won praise from business groups, with the Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry saying it mirrored its own recommendations.

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