Held in ‘high regard’

THE shock resignation of former State Premier Ted Baillieu last week left local State Government MPs, who supported his leadership, feeling “sad” and “extremely disappointed”.

Neither State Member for Morwell Russell Northe nor State Member for Narracan Gary Blackwood would be drawn on the events that preceded Mr Baillieu’s resignation last Wednesday night, but they said they were saddened by his decision as he had long supported both men in their own electorates.

While new leader Denis Napthine, formerly Major Projects, Regional Cities, Ports and Racing Minister, was “held in very high regard” by his Latrobe Valley-based colleagues, Mr Northe said “I was extremely disappointed for Ted, and felt terribly for him because I know he is a good person who has the interest of the state in his heart”.

“Ted was opposition leader for five years prior to winning the last election, he did the hard yards and we have had some real challenges in the last year,” Mr Northe said.

Despite widespread speculation Mr Baillieu’s resignation was at least partly triggered by a loss of support in his own party, Mr Blackwood insisted the former premier “chose to resign for his own personal reasons”.

“I was happy with the way Ted was operating… I was very sad that he chose to resign, he has always supported me and visited the electorate many times, every request I have had he has considered seriously and he backed my pre-election wish list… he has been very supportive of what goes on down here,” Mr Blackwood said.

He said he expected “to see the same level of support from Denis – he is very much regionally focused”.

Mr Northe said it was a “shame” Mr Baillieu would not be at the helm to see the “fruits” of his own efforts “in some of the great outcomes I firmly believe we will see in the next two years”.

“That’s not to take away from the new leader though,” he added.

“Denis will be a great leader, the National Party has always worked well with him and we have confidence in his ability… he is a doer and an approachable and sensible person.”

Asked if the Latrobe Valley could expect a new direction from the State Government under Mr Napthine’s leadership, Mr Blackwood said it was “too early to say” but added the new Premier “brings a different mindset to the job and he will have his own direction”. Mr Blackwood said in the past six to eight months had seen the government privately discussing new initiatives, and “how to get the message out”.