The Victorian government is poised for a change ahead of state elections, with four senior ministers, including the deputy prime minister, confirming they will step down.
At 10 am, Deputy Prime Minister James Merlino, Health Minister Martin Foley, Sports and Tourism Minister Martin Pakula and Police Minister Lisa Neville publicly shared their intention to resign ahead of state elections in November.
Pakula and Foley will retire from state politics entirely, while Neville said she will remain in public service.
Merlino will continue to be linked to the government’s election campaign in some way.
All four are high-ranking ministers and will deal a major blow to the Andrews administration’s re-election chances.
Role changes to see more women in leadership
Andrews said he was saddened by his colleagues’ departure, but that he was not worried about the ministers’ retirement.
“This is the right decision to make, in the interests of the government and the state,” he said.
He announced that Ben Carroll will become the coordinating minister of the Department of Employment.
Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio will serve as the coordinating minister for the Department of Environment, Land, Planning and Water.
Natalie Hutchins will assume the role of coordinating minister for the Department of Education and Training.
Assistant Treasurer Danny Pearson will become the coordinating minister for the Department of Families, Justice and Housing.
Maryanne Thomas will become the coordinating minister of the Department of Health.
“This means that, like the cabinet, the government leadership team is now more than half women,” Andrews said.
A caucus meeting will take place on Saturday at 10am, after which more details of the portfolio will be revealed.
Andrews says the government will ask the caucus to endorse Transport Minister Jacinta Allen as Deputy Prime at tomorrow’s meeting.
“I’m very confident, as are my colleagues on the senior leadership team are very confident, that the caucus will make the right decision,” he said.
Treasurer Tim Pallas said that as a senior minister belonging to the right-wing Victorian faction, he would support Allen in his candidacy for deputy prime minister.
Andrews thanks his teammates before shooting
Andrews bid farewell to “friends and colleagues” in the Victorian parliament, making special mention of his deputy Merlino.
“On a very personal note, I can never repay James for his loyalty, for his friendship, for his care and comfort with me,” he said.
“No prime minister could have had a better deputy, and I don’t believe Victoria could have had a better prime minister than we had for a long time last year.”
Merlino took over as prime minister last year when Andrews badly injured his back.
When asked if he had ever dodged a question about retiring ministers, Andrews fired.
“It’s not for me to make announcements on behalf of colleagues because you asked a question,” Andrews said today.
He invoked the right to privacy of parliamentarians’ families and suggested that the answer to the question was not, at the time, relevant to the public interest in Victoria.
A reporter referred to a question she had asked at a previous press conference about whether Andrews expected Merlino and Neville to contest the 2022 election.
At the time, Andrews replied “yes”.
Merlino spoke to the media after Andrews, saying he first wanted to thank his prime minister.
“It has been an absolute honor and a privilege to be his deputy for the last 10 and a half years,” he said.
He said Andrews was an “extraordinary” leader with ideas and determination he’d never seen anywhere else.
“I’ll get emotional if I talk too much.”
Merlino released a statement this morning to declare that his “twenty-year journey” has come to an end.
“Renewal is fundamental to any government – new ideas and new energies. As difficult as it is, I believe in it wholeheartedly,” he said in his statement.
“Renewal, new ministers around the table, is the best thing for the government and our state.”
In his departure statement, Pakula said he does not want to see himself as a politician who has remained in office at the expense of the rest of his life.
“Politics is an all-consuming endeavor. It’s a job that often requires an unhealthy measure 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.”
Foley’s statement said he was also looking forward to focusing on other aspects of his life.
“The last two years have been difficult for all Victorians. Many of us have come to reflect on what we aspire to achieve. I am no different,” reads its statement.
“I look forward to contributing to a better, fairer and more sustainable Victoria in a different capacity.
“One that allows me more time to focus on my family, well-being and different interests.”
Neville’s statement said her departure was due to a long struggle with Crohn’s disease, which led to her being hospitalized last year.
“But while it is no longer sustainable from a health point of view for me to commit to being a minister and a local member for the next term, I have not finished public service and I hope to find other ways to continue to contribute to public life after the elections in November. “, she said in the statement.
Following the announcements, Prime Minister Daniel Andrews issued a pre-prepared statement to each of his outgoing ministers, suggesting he was aware of his colleagues’ intentions.
In each, he detailed his appreciation for how they’ve navigated their respective portfolios through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Martin has set himself up to do one of the toughest jobs in a global pandemic. His professionalism and calm, deliberate direction got Victoria to the worst,” Andrews said of Foley.
“Your leadership during COVID-19 has saved lives.
“He never shied away from doing what needed to be done to keep the Victorians safe, keep our healthcare system running and protect our nurses, doctors, paramedics and allied healthcare workers.”