PREMIER Denis Napthine has shrugged off claims he is only filling in the top job before the Coalition faces a state election.
Speaking to The Standard yesterday, Dr Napthine said he was confident that he would lead the Liberal Party to the 2014 ballot.
“I’m confident that I’ve been elected by the party ... it’s up to me and my team to put forward a strategy,” he said.
“If we do that we can not only win the election but also the confidence of the people.”
The submission argues Portland and Hamilton share a linked economy and both would be better served together in the lower house by Nationals MP and state minister Hugh Delahunty.
South West Coast would be boosted to 40,135 voters, extending east and taking on a swag of towns in Transport Minister Terry Mulder’s seat of Polwarth, including Mortlake, Terang and Timboon.
Dr Napthine told The Standard he had only been informed of the plans on Thursday and denied it was a premeditated move to coincide with his accession to leadership.
“It’s an independent process conducted by the caucus — the electoral commission has a job to do which is to get a fair and balanced outcome,” Dr Napthine said. His previous electorate of Portland, which included Hamilton, was wiped out under a 2002 redivision.
A spokesman for the EBC said the plans would be put before the County Court in Melbourne on April 8 with any changes to be released by June 27. People will have a month to comment on the proposed boundaries, which would be effective for next year’s election.
But the report gives little reason behind the changes other than the Henty Highway that connects both Portland and Hamilton and the shared football league — that also includes Warrnambool.
Glenelg Shire mayor Karen Stephens questioned the basis for the redraw.
“I’m struggling to comprehend the analogy of the Henty Highway and the Hampden football league,” Cr Stephens told The Standard.
Fellow Glenelg councillor Geoff White said he was dismayed at the proposal, saying Portland shared better links with Warrnambool including manufacturing and education.
Monash University School of Political and Social Inquiry’s Dr Zareh Ghazarian said the Liberal Party was likely attempting to shore up votes by focusing on conservative rural voters in South West Coast and by severing traditional Labor-voting blue collar workers in Portland.
Both Labor and the Greens called on Dr Napthine this week to intervene in the crisis facing Portland wind turbine maker Keppel Prince.