Two Victorian government ministers have been promoted to lead high profile portfolios as part of a pre-election cabinet shake-up after the departure of four senior frontbenchers.
Deputy Premier James Merlino, Health Minister Martin Foley, Police Minister Lisa Neville and Sports Minister Martin Pakula revealed they would not recontest their seats in November and immediately step down from cabinet on Friday morning.
Premier Daniel Andrews said he was sad to farewell his close friends and colleagues.
“But when the time is right, when you know, then this is the right decision to make in the interest of not just the government but in the interest of our state,” he told reporters.
Current frontbenchers Mary-Anne Thomas and Natalie Hutchins will respectively become health and education ministers, with other portfolios to be determined at a Labor caucus meeting on Saturday.
It’s expected to be the final cabinet reshuffle before the November election, with new ministers likely to be sworn in early next week.
Until then, Ben Carroll will pick up the jobs portfolio, Lily D’Ambrosio will take on responsibility for the Department of Environment, Planning, Land and Water and Danny Pearson will oversee the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing.
Labor stalwart Richard Wynne has stepped down as planning minister after last year announcing he would retire at the next election, ceding temporary control of the portfolio to Ms D’Ambrosio.
Senior Victorian Labor leadership will recommend to caucus that Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan be picked as the next deputy premier.
That would go against Labor’s convention to share the two top jobs between the Socialist Left and right factions, given Mr Andrews and Ms Allan are both members of the former.
After almost two decades in parliament, Mr Merlino praised his wife as the “rock” of his family and admitted he could not summon the energy for another term.
“I know I could go 100 miles an hour, 100 per cent through to November. But I also know deep in my heart that I couldn’t commit to another four years,” he said.
Mr Foley, Mr Pakula and Ms Neville did not attend the press conference and instead issued a flurry of statements.
“The past two years have been a tough time for all Victorians. I am looking forward to contributing to a better, fairer, sustainable Victoria in a different capacity,” Mr Foley said.
Mr Pakula’s lower house seat of Keysborough has been scrapped as part of an electoral redistribution, but he had been expected to move to the upper house.
He described politics as all-consuming.
“As politicians, we are notoriously bad at appreciating when considerations for our own wellbeing demand that we stop and find something else to do with our lives. I’d like to think I’m not one of them,” Mr Pakula said.
Ms Neville took extended leave last year while battling severe Crohn’s disease flare-ups and said her decision to retire was made in consultation with doctors.
“I know I cannot give another four years,” she said, while noting she is “not finished” in the public service.
The resignations mean just 10 of the 22 Victorian Labor MPs sworn into cabinet after the 2018 election remain, as the Andrews government seeks a third term in office.
OTHER ORIGINAL VICTORIAN GOVERNMENT MINISTERS TO DEPART THIS TERM:
* Gavin Jennings (March 2020)
* Marlene Kairouz (June 2020)
* Robin Scott (June 2020)
* Adem Smoyurek (June 2020)
* Jenny Mikakos (September 2020)
* Jill Hennessy (December 2020)
* Luke Donnellan (October 2021)