Four senior Victorian Labor government ministers have announced their retirement ahead of the November state election, prompting a cabinet reshuffle.
Deputy Premier James Merlino, Health Minister Martin Foley, Police Minister Lisa Neville and Sports Minister Martin Pakula issued a flurry of statements on Friday morning revealing their decisions not to recontest their seats and to step down from the cabinet.
“Renewal is critical for any government – fresh ideas and new energy,” Mr Merlino said.
“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 Foley took over from Jenny Mikakos as health minister following her resignation in September 2020, and his exit amid the COVID-19 pandemic means the party will appoint a fourth health minister in as many years.
“The past two years have been a tough time for all Victorians,” Mr Foley said.
“Many of us have come to reflect on what we aspire to achieve. I am no different. I am looking forward to contributing to a better, fairer, sustainable Victoria in a different capacity.”
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.
“Politics is an all-consuming endeavour. It’s a job which often demands an unhealthy measure of emotional and mental commitment,” Mr Pakula said.
“As politicians, we are notoriously bad at appreciating when considerations for our own well-being demand that we stop and find something else to do with our lives. I’d like to think I’m not one of them.”
Ms Neville took extended leave last year while battling severe Crohn’s disease flare-ups, and shed the emergency services portfolio when she returned to work in August.
She said her decision to retire was one of the hardest of her life and had been made in consultation with doctors.
“My recovery in 2021 allowed me to resume work in late 2021, but I know I cannot give another four years,” she said.
“I wish it were otherwise, but I must be honest with myself, the wonderful people I work with and the Bellarine community.”
Premier Daniel Andrews thanked the ministers for their service, as his government seeks to secure a third straight term in office.
Twenty-two Victorian Labor MPs were sworn into the cabinet after the party’s crushing election win in 2018.
As few as 10 will remain following the latest pre-election resignations, including Mr Andrews, Tim Pallas, Jacinta Allan, Jaclyn Symes, Ben Carroll, Lily D’Ambrosio, Gabrielle Williams, Melissa Horne, Jaala Pulford and Gayle Tierney.
Opposition Leader Matthew Guy argued the exits were more a revolt than party renewal.
“The only true renewal we’ll see is at the November election when Daniel Andrews is defeated,” he told reporters.