DEPUTY Premier and Gippsland South MLA Peter Ryan has lost responsibility for Police and Emergency Services following a cabinet reshuffle by new Premier Denis Napthine.
Mr Ryan will remain Regional and Rural Development Minister, but also take on the new State Development portfolio, overseeing growth across the state, in the new cabinet.
As leader of the Victorian Nationals, the junior member of the Coalition government, Mr Ryan will also remain Deputy Premier.
Despite lifting the profile of the police portfolio through increasing police numbers and introducing Protective Service Officers to railway stations Mr Ryan had been under pressure as Police Minister after the release of secret recordings involving his disgraced former police advisor Triston Weston.
Mr Weston stood down after an Office of Police Integrity investigation exposed a campaign to undermine former police commissioner Simon Overland originating from Mr Ryan’s office, a campaign Mr Ryan has consistently denied having any knowledge of, or involvement in.
The State Development portfolio could be seen as having been created to capitalise on Mr Ryan’s formidable negotiation skills and strong relationship with both rural and metropolitan business communities. It could also distance him from any future fallout from the Overland affair.
The new Police Minister is Kim Wells, who has been replaced as Treasurer by Michael O’Brien.
Dr Napthine, who became Premier last week after the resignation of Ted Baillieu, remains Racing Minister and Minister for Regional Cities.
Eastern Victoria MLC Peter Hall will retain the higher education and skills and teaching profession portfolios.
Edward O’Donohue, another Eastern Victoria MLC, has been promoted to Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier after Heidi Victoria came into the cabinet as Minister for the Arts, Women’s Affairs and Consumer Affairs.
Narracan MLA Gary Blackwood is now Parliamentary Secretary for Transport, while Morwell MLA Russell Northe has been retained as Parliamentary Secretary for Small Business.
Emphasising the importance of the State Development role Mr Ryan said it was impossible for him to take on the new role and retain both his past roles.
“From a practical point of view, I did not feel it possible to maintain both these major areas of responsibility – State Development and Police and Emergency Services.
“I leave the Police and Emergency Services portfolio knowing that we have made major advances in the sector since coming to government, having inherited it in a tumultuous state from the former Labor Government.
“Chief Commissioner Ken Lay is an excellent leader and the team around him is cohesive, committed and highly skilled. The roll out of 1700 new police and 940 Protective Services Officers promised by the Victorian Coalition Government is ahead of schedule and the many excellent initiatives we have recently announced within the Road Safety Strategy, such as the new alcohol interlock laws, are programs of which I am very proud. They will save lives.
“The installation of an independent Road Safety Camera Commissioner to advocate for motorists and roll out of more than 100 CFA stations are also very pleasing, as has been the ongoing reduction in the road toll, culminating last year in the lowest toll on record.
“I pay tribute to all of those personnel who wear ‘the blue’ as Victoria Police, and to the many staff across the government agencies. I also recognise the extraordinary contribution of those tens of thousands of volunteers who stand the line for all of us when danger is threatening. The collective contribution of these people cannot be overrated.
“I can also assure all Victorians that in Kim Wells, they will have a minister at the helm who has a deep understanding of the Police and Emergency Services portfolios and a strong working knowledge of the rest of the sector.
“I am delighted to be taking on the new, overarching role of Minister for State Development.
“Victoria needs a portfolio focussed on investment, jobs and economic development. This area is a strong passion of mine as many of Victoria’s business leaders will attest.
“As Premier Napthine has said, this new forward-looking role was one developed as a result of my raising this issue with him in the course of our recent discussions. Establishing this new portfolio reflects the changing face of Victoria.
“We need a long-term focus on jobs and investment which accommodates the difficult prevailing economic conditions and which also looks forward to the coming decades.
“Working with the private sector and the global business community to maximise investment and job outcomes in Victoria from projects such as the new Port of Hastings development is an opportunity I will relish.
“I look forward to the challenge of being the Minister for State Development where I can build on the excellent work which is being achieved in the Rural and Regional Development portfolio and through the $1 billion Regional Growth Fund, and which will now enable me to have a broad, statewide role in an area so vital to the future of our state.”