Jaala Pulford is Victoria’s new innovation minister after a Cabinet reshuffle brought on by the branch stacking controversy that has besieged the state government.
Premier Daniel Andrews unveiled his new cabinet on Monday morning with little fanfare. No press conference was held to herald the new ministerial positions, with the changes instead announced through a statement.
Ms Pulford, the former minister for roads, road safety, the TAC, fishing and boating, has been appointed as the Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy.
She will also be the Minister for Employment and Small Business, taking over from Adem Somyurek, who was sacked by Mr Andrews following the large-scale branch stacking allegations last week.
Ms Pulford will play a “critical role in creating jobs and overseeing Working for Victoria”, and will “ensure our largest sector has a strong voice in government”, Mr Andrews said.
Serving as the minister for agriculture and regional development from 2014 to 2018, Ms Pulford has been a Labor representative for the western Victorian region in the upper house since 2006.
During her time heading the regional development portfolio, the minister oversaw the introduction of Victoria’s first digital agriculture program.
Ms Pulford has her political origins in the unions, serving as an organiser for the National Union of Workers Victorian Branch from 1994
Ms Pulford replaces Martin Pakula, who has served as Victoria’s innovation minister since late 2018. Mr Pakula has been appointed to helm a new portfolio focusing on industry support and recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This portfolio will be about “helping Victorian businesses navigate restrictions and restart their operations in a COVIDsafe economy and delivering targeted support for our key job-creating sectors”, the Premier said.
Mr Pakula will also continue to serve as Minister for Trade and Business Precincts.
Mr Pakula had replaced Philip Dalidakis as innovation minister, who had served in the role since 2015. Mr Andrews brought Mr Somyurek back to Parliament to replace Mr Dalidakis, despite saying that he had stood aside to make way for more women in Parliament.
Mr Somyurek had served as small business minister until he was sacked by Mr Andrews last week.
Victoria’s innovation policy has recently focused on LaunchVic, which has provided funding for the organisations providing support for the local tech and startup ecosystem.
The state government also recently launched a jobs growth fund which will directly take equity in companies, with a focus on technology.