TED Baillieu has belatedly set up a government advertising watchdog - but has broken an election promise to ensure it is headed by an independent retired judge.
Instead, Mr Baillieu has appointed former Howard government bureaucrat Greg Williams to chair the new body, which will vet taxpayer-funded ad campaigns and make sure they comply with state guidelines.
Under the rules, government advertising must not be intended to promote party political interests.
The watchdog was promised two years ago in a bid to cut government advertising costs, which an Auditor-General's report recently found had risen to about $1 billion during the last four years of the Labor government.
Taxpayer-funded advertising has long been a sensitive issue for Victorian governments.
In his report, Auditor-General Des Pearson found Victorians were generally kept in the dark about the true cost of advertising, because ''public reporting is partial and inaccurate''.
In a private member's bill introduced by Liberal frontbencher David Davis in September 2010, the Coalition said the panel would have five members, who would be employed for no fewer than three years, and would be ''chaired by a retired judge of the Supreme Court or the County Court''.
But after struggling to find a former member of the judiciary, the government has appointed Mr Williams, a former federal first assistant secretary, as its inaugural chairman.
Mr Williams has worked under the Keating and Howard governments and oversaw central advertising for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet when Mr Baillieu's chief of staff, Tony Nutt, was a senior staffer to John Howard. Recently, Mr Williams headed a review of the Victorian corrections system, after an Ombudsman's report into the death of gangland killer Carl Williams found serious operational problems.
Chris Taylor, a former assistant secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, has been appointed Mr Williams' deputy chairman. The duo will report to the secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Helen Silver.
Mr Baillieu said the government had ''ended unnecessary advertising campaigns which became a hallmark of the previous Labor government''. But opposition scrutiny of government spokesman Martin Pakula accused Mr Baillieu of ''having a lend''.
''There's nothing independent about two bureaucrats reporting to the Premier's department, especially when Tony Nutt ran an identical process for John Howard and the new chair is the same guy, doing the same job,'' he said.
The move came as a new government advertising contract - worth $330 million over three years - was awarded to two Victorian companies: Mitchell & Partners and Zenith Optimedia. Government figures suggest the previous contract was valued at $527 million.
Mr Baillieu said the contracts would significantly reduce advertising costs. More than 400 government agencies, including the TAC, WorkSafe and Victoria Police, will have access to discounted ad rates.
''In contrast to the previous Labor government, the Coalition government has limited advertising to informing Victorians of programs, new legislation and providing important safety messages about bushfires, floods and road safety,'' he said.