Jacinta Allan is tipped to be Victoria’s new deputy prime minister after four senior ministers resign

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Victoria’s transport infrastructure minister, Jacinta Allan, has emerged as the leading candidate for the post of deputy prime minister following the resignation of James Merlino and three senior ministers.

Merlino, Health Minister Martin Foley, Police Minister Lisa Neville and Tourism, Sport and Major Events Minister Martin Pakula issued statements Friday morning confirming that they will not seek re-election in November and will leave the cabinet as soon as possible. that their replacements are confirmed.

Prime Minister Daniel Andrews announced that new senior “coordinating ministers” would head each government department before the Labor caucus met Saturday morning to vote on a new cabinet.

He said Mary-Anne Thomas, the current minister of agriculture and regional development, will become minister of health, while corrections minister Natalie Hutchins will take over the education portfolio.

“This means that, like the cabinet, the government’s leadership team is now more than half women,” Andrews said.

“Government is much better at ensuring that 50% of the community [comprises] at least 50% of our ranks.”

Victoria’s outgoing Deputy Prime Minister James Merlino (left) speaks to the media alongside Prime Minister Daniel Andrews and Jacinta Allan, who is being nominated for the role. Photography: Diego Fedele/AAP

Current Transport Minister Ben Carroll will assume responsibility as coordinating minister for the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, while Assistant Treasurer Danny Pearson will oversee the Department of Families, Justice and Housing. Andrews said their final portfolios have not been decided.

Andrews said he and coordinating ministers would recommend that Allan become deputy prime minister at Saturday’s meeting.

It is a break with the Labor Party’s factional conventions, which mandate that the post of deputy be held by a deputy from a different faction than the prime minister.

If Allan were appointed deputy, it would give the prime minister’s left-wing socialist faction control of the party’s two highest offices.

Related: Deputy Prime Minister James Merlino among Victorian Labor MPs set to retire

But Andrews said the Bracks and Brumby administrations also broke with tradition.

“We are not going to get into that kind of game. I am very confident, as my senior leadership team and colleagues are very confident, that the bench will make the right decision,” he told reporters.

Treasurer Tim Pallas urged his colleagues on the right to support Allan as deputy prime minister.

“I had the opportunity to work with her for over two decades. She is a passionate advocate in her community’s parliament,” he said. “It will be a great demonstration, I believe, of the renewal of this government, but also of its commitment.”

Carroll was named by the right as a candidate for vice, but Andrews said Allan was the only candidate he knew.

Allan has long been considered a potential successor to Andrews, although she has said her only ambition was to see the government re-elected.

“I can say that I am very honored and grateful for the support of my colleagues around me, and I am particularly grateful to the prime minister for his support,” she said, noting that it was important that the caucus process run its course.

Several sources said members of the right-wing factions – President Colin Brooks and lawmakers Lizzie Blandthorn, Steve Dimopoulos and Nick Staikos – were vying for the cabinet, while on the left, Sonya Kilkenny and Harriet Shing emerged as strong candidates.

The upper figures depart

The four pensions add to other senior Labor lawmakers, including former Attorney General Jill Hennessy and Planning Minister Richard Wynne, who announced last year that he would retire in the election.

Merlino, who in addition to deputy prime minister was also education and mental health minister, said a cabinet reshuffle would be the “best thing” for the government, which is seeking a third term.

“Renewal is key for any government – ​​new ideas and new energies. As difficult as it is, I believe with all my heart that renewal, new ministers around the table, is the best for the government and our state,” Merlino said.

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

Andrews said Victoria “has never had a better actor” than Merlino, who took on the role for several months last year while recovering from a serious back injury.

“I will be forever grateful for your care and concern, but beyond that, your competence – allowing me to focus on recovering from very serious injuries, confident, indeed certain, that the state is in the best hands,” Andrews said.

Merlino will remain campaign president ahead of the November 26 elections, a position he has held unofficially in the last two campaigns.

Related: Victoria to conduct review on coercive practices in the mental health system

Foley, a 15-year parliamentary veteran who replaced Jenny Mikakos as health minister following her resignation in September 2020, said the pandemic was a difficult time for all Victorians, forcing many to reflect on their aspirations.

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

Foley thanked nurses, doctors, paramedics, allied healthcare professionals and scientists for their efforts during the pandemic, saying working with them was the “biggest revelation” of his professional life.

The prime minister said that without Foley there would be no royal commission for mental health or the establishment of Victoria’s first medically supervised injection room.

He said Foley’s work during the pandemic “saved lives”.

“Martin was never afraid to face tough issues and make tough decisions when he knew it was the right thing to do – and when he knew it would help people,” Andrews said.

Neville, who battled Crohn’s disease, said stepping away from politics was one of the most difficult decisions of his life.

Victoria Police Minister Lisa Neville has announced that she will step down from politics.

Victoria Police Minister Lisa Neville has announced that she will not seek re-election in November. Photography: James Ross/AAP

“I only know one way to approach public life and that is to invest every ounce of energy in it. Being a deputy and minister is a unique privilege that requires your full focus,” she said.

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

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

“Politics is an all-consuming effort. 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 demand that we 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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