Impatient, like his opponents, to be back at work, Victorian premier Steve Bracks this morning announced the lineup of his new ministry following Saturday’s election.
There are no big surprises, but there has been a fairly general rearrangement of jobs. Most interesting is the apparent demotion of Tim Holding, young turk of the Labor right and former police minister, who came under fire during the campaign for an underhand deal with the police union. He moves to finance and tourism, while former agriculture minister Bob Cameron takes his job and former finance minister John Lenders moves to education.
As expected, attorney-general Rob Hulls loses the planning portfolio, now taken by Justin Madden (formerly sport). Treasurer John Brumby stays put, and deputy premier John Thwaites stays in charge of the key election issue of water, with his title expanding from “environment and water” to “water, environment and climate change.”
The sole new female face, Lisa Neville, redeems an election promise by becoming the first minister for mental health issues. Other new ministers take such jobs as gaming and consumer affairs (Daniel Andrews), Agriculture (Joe Helper) and sport, recreation and youth affairs (James Merlino).
Veteran Peter Batchelor, the last real holdover from the Kirner years, moves from transport to energy; his old portfolio has been split between Lynne Kosky (formerly education), who takes public transport, and new recruit Tim Pallas, who takes roads.
Bracks’s other star recruit, internet millionaire Evan Thornley, failed to score a ministry but was named parliamentary secretary to the premier with responsibility for intergovernmental reform – provided he gets elected, that is. Thornley is clinging to a wafer-thin lead for the last seat in Southern Metro region, but his fate will not be decided until below-the-line votes are distributed.
There was already some controversy over the changes. Former tourism minister John Pandazopoulos put out a press release on Monday, presumably written for him by the media unit, in which his decision not to stand for the new ministry was linked to the job’s “toll on your personal life”. But yesterday he told a different story, blaming lack of support from his faction.
No-one could fairly describe it as a ministry overflowing with talent, but it is probably no worse than its interstate counterparts. With the 52-year-old Bracks having already committed to serving another full term, succession planning is not yet a major issue; Thwaites is still the heir presumptive, while Holding’s star has waned a little further.