Election rewind | Revolution of '96 put Victoria on the move

Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett shows off the state's new registration plates in 1996. Photo by Bruce Postle.

Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett shows off the state's new registration plates in 1996. Photo by Bruce Postle.

REVOLUTION was the best word to describe what occurred in Victoria during the four years leading up to the 1996 state election.

Local government amalgamations, rural school closures, privatisation of the ambulance service and State Electricity Commission, mass construction and the sacking of thousands of public servants equalled a transformation time for the Garden State.

Yet Victoria wasn't content with no longer content with its common-or-garden reputation. Under Premier Jeff Kennett, it was re-badged as "On The Move."

The new title was justified. Impressive infrastructure projects were popping up everywhere- Melbourne Convention and Entertainment Centre (still known as Jeff's Shed), IMAX Theatre and brand-new Melbourne Museum, redevelopment of the State Library and a new Melbourne Sport and Aquatic Centre.

Depending on your political viewpoint, the Kennett revolution either made Victoria an economic powerhouse or a city-centric state.

Many Victorians had election fatigue after federal, state and council elections all in the one month. But few were sitting on the fence with the Premier and Opposition Leader John Brumby standing on evidently different political platforms.

John Brumby speaks at the ALP conference at Monash University.

John Brumby speaks at the ALP conference at Monash University.

Issues dominating the 1996 campaign included school site sell-offs, a row over ambulance funding, the future of the state-owned Gas and Fuel Corporation and alterations to the water authorities.

On election night, Mr Kennett gained a resounding victory, retaining most of his support from the 1992 election. Mr Brumby said he would fight on but his leadership was on shaky ground. During the television coverage of the event, former premier Joan Kirner said little-known Portland MP Denis Napthine was a potential minister in the next term of government.

Portland MP Denis Napthine first became a minister after the 1996 election.

Portland MP Denis Napthine first became a minister after the 1996 election.

A number of country electorates swung to the opposition but the Kennett government lost only a few seats, including one to Mildura independent Russell Savage. He would play a key role at the next election.

Cartoonist Paul Zanetti summed up the campaign well in his illustration of a victorious Mr Kennett reading from a list. "First of all, I would like to thank those who made my victory possible," the cartoon of Kennett says, "John Cain, Joan Kirner, Paul Keating..."

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