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Resignation of four high-ranking Victorian ministers sheds light on the future of the state Labor party

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The shocking announcement that four Victorian senior ministers will resign in the next state election has caused a significant shake-up from the front bench of the government and sheds light on the future of Victorian Labor – including who will succeed Prime Minister Daniel Andrews.

Yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister James Merlino, Health Minister Martin Foley, Police Minister Lisa Neville and Sports Minister Martin Pakula announced that they will remain in the back seat until they leave parliament in November.

Andrews has put forward Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan as his choice to replace Mr Merlino as his deputy.

Her nomination won’t be confirmed until after the Labor Caucus meets at 10am today, but she has the surprising support of opposing heavyweights and is seen as the natural candidate for the job.

Paul Strangio, a professor of politics at Monash University, said the deputy role would place Ms. Allan as Mr. Andrews’ successor when he eventually resigns from the top job.

Meanwhile, Mr Andrews also announced Friday that Mary-Anne Thomas, Lily D’Ambrosio, Danny Pearson, Ben Carroll and Natalie Hutchins would become the coordinating ministers of various departments. These positions are determined by the Prime Minister.

Allan’s faction makes her an unconventional choice

Tradition of the Labor Party is that the Deputy Prime Minister comes from a different faction than the Prime Minister.

Ms Allan is from the Socialist Left – the same faction as Mr Andrews.

A woman and a man wearing safety helmets and high visibility vests
Jacinta Allan becomes Victoria’s new Deputy Prime Minister and appoints her as Daniel Andrews’ successor.AAP: Diego Fedele

Despite this, treasurer Tim Pallas — a member of the right faction – said he supported Ms Allan’s nomination.

Outgoing Labor rights minister Lisa Neville told ABC Radio Melbourne it wouldn’t be the first time the deputy and prime minister have come from the same faction.

“It’s not abnormal at all to have that situation,” she said Friday.

She said she was sure “factions” would take place before the caucus meeting, but she supported Ms. Allan.

“I think Jacinta definitely deserves that job, she will be fantastic in that role,” she said.

“She was the obvious choice.”

Lisa Neville in a red blazer, looking beyond the camera
Lisa Neville has backed Jacinta Allan as the new Deputy Prime Minister.Channel 7

Andrews also tried to allay any criticism by saying that the Brumby and Bracks governments were also against the convention.

“Let’s not play these kinds of games,” he said.

“I am very confident, just as my colleagues on the senior leadership team are very confident, that the caucus will make the right decision.”

Before Friday’s announcement, Roads Secretary Ben Carroll was seen as one of the top candidates for the position of Deputy Minister, as a rising star of the right.

Kos Samaras, who served as campaign manager for Victorian Labor for 14 years, told ABC Radio Melbourne that the likely appointment of Ms Allan in the deputy role as a member of the same faction as the prime minister was “more of an exception than the norm”.

He said others had expressed interest in the role but decided not to go ahead with their nominations.

A commotion in the cabinet probably has no influence on the election results

The Labor party has been in government for the past eight years and is now pushing for another four in the state elections to be held on November 26 this year.

Professor Strangio said who heads which ministry probably won’t mean much to the public.

A man in a suit smiles at the camera
Paul Strangio said the replacement of four key ministers is unlikely to change public opinion on Victorian Labor.ABC News: Kate Ashton

Mr Samaras said voters would likely view the change as “normal”.

“Most voters, based on research we’re doing across the country, couldn’t name more than two or three people from any given government,” he said.

He said Labor and Liberals could lose seats to “Teal” independents and Greens, but predicted that Labor would win the election.

“But we are five months further, so it is still early,” he said.

Pandemic burnout may have affected layoffs

Mr Foley and Mr Merlino said they wanted to spend more time with their families as they played a role in their decision to step down, while Ms Neville spoke of her health concerns. Last year she took a break from parliament as she battled Crohn’s disease.

“I couldn’t continue at the pace I was,” she said on Friday.

Meanwhile, Mr Pakula said politics has taken its toll on him personally and on his family.

“I love government, but I don’t like politics as much as I used to,” he said.

Four ministers.
The outgoing ministers cited several reasons for leaving the government.ABC/MONKEY

All four ministers also had the arduous task of guiding Victoria through more closures than any other Australian jurisdiction.

Professor Strangio said pandemic burnout “undoubtedly” played a role in ministers’ decisions to resign.

“Ministerial responsibilities are heavy, they tax, they are incessant,” he said.

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