By Jackson Russell
MEMBER for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes has returned to where her political career started after being promoted to Attorney-General late last year.
Ms Symes takes over the role after the sudden resignation of Jill Hennessey in December.
Ms Symes will remain Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council and Minister for Resources, but will drop the agriculture and regional development portfolios she had held since Labor’s 2018 state election win.
Member for Macedon Mary-Anne Thomas has taken the reins from Ms Symes as Minister for Agriculture and Regional Development after previously serving as cabinet secretary.
Ms Symes holds a law degree and previously worked as a policy adviser in government and opposition across the Attorney-General and other justice portfolios.
Ms Symes said the Attorney-General portfolio was the one that got her involved in politics.
“[The portfolio is] one that can deliver big reforms that support all Victorians,” she said.
“I’m fortunate to be stepping into a portfolio where so much work and significant reform is already underway.
“Ultimately, I want to ensure that Victoria’s justice system is fair and accessible – that it delivers the access to justice Victorians need and supports them through what can often be the most challenging times in their lives.”
Ms Symes said she loved being the Minister for Agriculture and Regional Development and her electorate duties would not be affected by the added responsibility.
“It was a great role which was made even better by the people I worked with – but I know I’m leaving it in good hands and Mary-Anne Thomas is going to do a terrific job as the new minister,” she said.
“I’m still a country MP before any other title and I’m no stranger to balancing the need to be in Parliament or Melbourne with being in my electorate and available to our community.
“Living in Broadford and having my office in Wallan ensures I’m particularly aware of the needs of the Mitchell Shire.”
Ms Thomas said it was an honour to be sworn in.
“Having grown up in regional Victoria, and representing the Macedon electorate for more than six years, I’m excited about the opportunities to work for country people and regional and rural communities across our great state,” she said.
“Our agricultural and regional industries are a cornerstone of the Victorian economy, and will be crucial in helping us build back better following this challenging year. I can’t wait to get started.”
The Nationals Leader Peter Walsh has called on Ms Thomas to ‘hit the ground running’ and offered a list of expectations from Victorian farmers, including reversing the native timber ban, ensuring a full duck season and investing in country roads.
“A lack of leadership on key challenges affecting our farmers and regional communities has seen the problems getting worse,” he said.
“Our fruit and vegetable growers and food processors desperately need access to a seasonal workforce to make sure they can harvest crops and meet high demand for our high-quality meat and food in the future.”