By Chloe Henry and Cameron Lucadou-Wells
Four of Premier Daniel Andrews’ key frontbenchers have announced they will not contest their seats at November’s State Election, forcing a major reshuffle of the Victorian cabinet.
Minister for Health and Equality Martin Foley, Minister for Police and Water Lisa Neville, Deputy Premier, Minister for Education and Mental Health James Merlino, and Minister for Trade, Racing and Tourism Martin Pakula, announced on Friday 24 June their plans to give-up their seats on 26 November when Victorians head to the polls.
Mr Pakula holds a plethora of portfolios as the Minister for Industry Support and Recovery, Trade, Business Precincts, Tourism, Sport and Major Events, and Racing.
He was also a former State Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Transport.
First elected as a Western Metropolitan MP in the Upper House in 2006, Mr Pakula later moved to the Lower House seat of Lyndhurst – later named Keysborough.
He initially intended to re-contest and move to the upper house- this plan had since changed.
In a statement, Mr Pakula said he was thankful to the thousands of people in the communities he served.
“For me that includes the beautiful people of Keysborough, Springvale, Springvale South, Noble Park, Dingley and Waterways,” he said.
“A decade in the Ministry has taught me that a government with big ambitions for the state, its people and its future is something to be cherished.”
Mr Merlino served parliament for 20 years before deciding to retire.
He took over as Acting Premier while Mr Andrews recovered from spinal injuries in an accident in 2021.
“As hard as this is, I believe in my heart that renewal, new cabinet ministers around the table, is the best thing for the government and our state,” Mr Merlino said.
Mr Foley served for 15 years, and said he was proud to have played a role in the efforts of the Victorian government, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Our health and ambulance services have been through the toughest of times in this pandemic,” Mr Foley said.
“Working with our health services – nurses, doctors, paramedics, and allied health professionals and scientists – has been the greatest revelation of my professional life.”
Speaking of Mr Foley, Premier Andrews said without him, there would have been no Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, which delivered its final report in February 2021.
Ms Neville said while she resumed work in late 2021 after being hospitalised with Crohn’s Disease, she cannot serve another four years in parliament.
“But while it is no longer sustainable from a health perspective for me to commit to being Minister and local member for the next term, I am not finished with public service and look forward to finding other ways to continue to contribute to public life after the election in November,” she said.
Premier Daniel Andrews said he was sad to see long-time colleagues retire from parliament at the end of the year, all being fellow members for Labor.
“Each of them has given many years of extraordinary service to our state, to our Government and to the labour movement,” Mr Andrews said.
“I am so grateful for the support, friendship and loyalty that each of them has shown me over the journey.”
Joining their departures at the next election will be Planning Minister Richard Wynne and former Attorney-General Jill Hennessey.
Last year, Narre Warren North MP Luke Donnellan, and MPs Marlene Kairouz and Robin Scott resigned from the front bench, while South Eastern Metropolitan MP Adem Somyurek departed Cabinet and the ALP in the wake of branch-stacking allegations.