Victoria’s Innovation and Digital Economy minister Jaala Pulford has announced plans to leave politics at the upcoming state election next month.
In a statement on Wednesday morning, Ms Pulford said after the “most rewarding journey in politics” the time had come for her to “seek new challenges”.
She has advised Premier Daniel Andrews that she will not contest the Victorian election, which will be held on November 26, but will remain in her portfolios until that time.
“I’m conscious that I’m making this decision on the eve of a state election but I’m absolutely confident that the time is right for me, and for the government,” she said.
The departure is another blow for the government, with more than a dozen senior ministers set to leave state Parliament at the election.
Ms Pulford has held the seat of Western Victoria for almost 16 years and has served as a minister under Premier Daniel Andrews since December 2014.
She became Innovation, Medical Research and Digital Economy minister in a 2020 Cabinet reshuffle brought on by a branch stacking scandal, replacing former Innovation minister Martin Pakula.
The portfolio is held alongside that of Employment and Small Business (since June 2020) and Resources (since August 2021).
She was also Victoria’s first female Minister for Agriculture between December 2014 and December 2018 and Minister for Roads between December 2018 and June 2020.
As Innovation and Digital Economy minister, Ms Pulford has presided over efforts to establish a local mRNA vaccine manufacturing capability in Victoria and the state’s cybersecurity strategy.
Ms Pulford said that during her time in Parliament, the government has “championed science, celebrated discovery, and pushed hard into health tech”, and “deployed data and innovation on everything from traffic management to gold discovered”.
She said that “representing the people of Western Victoria has been an extraordinary privilege”. “While it is amazing to pass a law, design a program or fund a project, the best thing about being a politician is the people we meet.”
Premier Andrews thanked Ms Pulford for her “many years of dedication to the people of Victoria” and her work as a minister during her time in Parliament.
“She made the Victorian Parliament a kinder, more thoughtful place. She gave us all cause to reflect, and to garner a little perspective. She will be sorely missed by many on both sides of the aisle,” he said.
As Minister for Innovation, Medical Research and the Digital Economy, he said Ms Pulford had “presided over a massive boost to funding in all of our medical research precincts”.
“That means more devices, more implantables, more therapeutics. It means better care, bigger advancements and a pipeline of work to deliver massive benefits for kids and families right here in Victoria – and well and truly beyond,” he added.
“Jaala can be rightly proud of her role in making Victoria the first place in the Southern Hemisphere to manufacture mRNA vaccines through our deal with Moderna – the possibilities of which are almost endless.”
Ms Pulford thanked Premier Andrews for his daily “purpose, focus and courage”, and wished him, the Cabinet and the wider Labor Party “every success in November and beyond”.
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