Victorian Cabinet undergoes major overhaul as Deputy Prime Minister and three senior ministers confirm retirement | Victorian politics

Four senior Victorian government ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister James Merlino, have confirmed they will retire from politics, paving the way for a massive shake-up by the government’s leadership group just five months after the election.

Merlino, Health Secretary Martin Foley, Police Secretary Lisa Neville and Tourism, Sports and Major Events Secretary Martin Pakula issued statements Friday morning confirming that they will not stand for re-election in November and will step down from the cabinet once their replacements have been appointed. confirmed.

The deputy prime minister, who is also the minister of Education and Mental Health, said a cabinet reshuffle would be “best” for the government seeking a third term.

“Renewal is critical to any government – ​​fresh ideas and new energy. As difficult as this is, I believe in my heart that renewal, new ministers around the table, is the best thing for the government and our state,” Merlino said.

“I know how much capacity and talent there is in our team.”

The four retirements come on top of other senior Labor MPs, including former Attorney General Jill Hennessy and planning secretary Richard Wynne, who announced last year that they would be retiring in the election.

According to Labor faction rules, the Deputy Prime Minister must come from a different faction than Prime Minister Daniel Andrews, who is from the Socialist Left.

It is also expected that the outgoing MPs in the cabinet will be replaced by members of their group.

Several sources said the Transport Secretary, Ben Carroll, was a frontrunner for the deputy position, while members of the appropriate factions — Speaker Colin Brooks and MPs Lizzie Blandthorn, Steve Dimopolous and Nick Staikos — vie to replace Merlino, Neville and Pakula. .

On the left, Sonya Kilkenny and Harriet Shing have raised their hands to replace Foley and Wynne.

Some sources suggested that the prime minister could elect the minister of transport infrastructure, Jacinta Allan, from the left as a deputy, although this could lead to backlash from the right.

The Prime Minister, Daniel Andrews, said Victoria has “never had a better acting premiere” than Merlino, who stepped into the role for several months last year while recovering from a serious back injury.

“I will be forever grateful for his care and concern, but also for his competence – allowing me to focus on recovering from very serious injuries, convinced, yes, sure that the state was in the best hands,” said Andrews.

Merlino will remain in the role of campaign chairman ahead of the November 26 election, a role he held unofficially in the last two campaigns.

Foley, a 15-year parliamentary veteran who took over from Jenny Mikakos as health minister after her resignation in September 2020, said the pandemic was a rough time for all Victorians, forcing many to rethink their aspirations.

“I am no different. I look forward to contributing to a better, fairer and more sustainable Victoria in a different capacity, one that gives me more time to focus on my family and well-being and other interests,” he said.

Foley thanked nurses, doctors, paramedics, paramedics and scientists for their efforts during the pandemic and said working with them was the “greatest revelation” of his professional life.

The Prime Minister said without Foley there would be no royal commission on mental health or the creation of Victoria’s first medically supervised injection room.

“Martin has never been afraid to face difficult problems and make difficult decisions when he knew it was the right thing to do — and when he knew it would help people,” Andrews said.

Neville, who has battled Crohn’s disease, said leaving politics was one of the most difficult decisions in her life.

“I’ve only known one way to approach public life and that’s to put every ounce of energy into it. Being an MP and a minister is a unique privilege and one that requires your full attention,” she said.

“I know I can’t give another four years. I wish it were different, but I have to be honest with myself, the wonderful people I work with and the Bellarine community.”

Pakula said he had decided to hang up his boots after 16 years in politics.

“Politics is an all-consuming endeavor. It’s a job that often requires an unhealthy level of emotional and mental commitment,” he said.

“As politicians, we are notoriously bad at appreciating when considerations for our own well-being require us to stop and find something else to do with our lives. I’d like to think I’m not one of them.”

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