Foley retires after 15 years as Albert Park member

David Schout

After 15 years as the state member for Albert Park, Martin Foley has announced he is stepping down and will not contest the November state election.

Elected at the 2007 by-election triggered by former Deputy Premier John Thwaites’ retirement, Mr Foley has since served as the member for the inner-Melbourne seat which includes Southbank.

Among other ministries, he has served in the Equality, Disability and Housing portfolios, and most recently as Health Minister during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when he took over from former minister Jenny Mikakos in September 2020.

Mr Foley was one of four senior Andrews Government ministers to announce they’ll step down ahead of November, alongside Deputy Premier James Merlino, Police Minister Lisa Neville and Sports Minister Martin Pakula.

 

“It has been a privilege to serve my local community in the district of Albert Park – the best part of our great state. To the people of Albert Park, I owe all my thanks,” Mr Foley said on June 24.

 

He paid tribute to his family for sacrifices made over a 15-year career in parliament.

“Only they know the support and love they have provided to sustain us. Their sacrifice has been integral to anything that may have been achieved throughout my time as a Member of Parliament. None more so than my wife and soul mate Sharon Duff. No words can thank her enough. Now is the time where I attempt to repay them for all they have done.”

The announcement leaves a vacancy for Labor in Albert Park ahead of a state election now less than five months away.

And while the party holds the seat with a seemingly comfortable margin, there would likely be renewed confidence from the Greens given their strong showing in the recent federal election.

At the recent May election, Greens candidate Steph Hodgins-May came agonisingly close to securing the federal seat of of Macnamara – which shares a similar geographic area to the Albert Park electorate – with Labor’s Josh Burns eventually claiming the seat after nine days of counting.

It is not yet known when Labor preselection for the vacancies will take place.

Upon Mr Foley’s retirement, Premier Daniel Andrews paid tribute to a “trusted friend”.

“Martin stepped up to do one of the most difficult jobs in a global pandemic. His professionalism, and his calm, deliberate direction saw Victoria through the worst of it,” the Premier said.

“He is respected by dedicated healthcare workers right across Victoria – and I can think of no greater compliment for a Health Minister.”

Following his announced retirement, Mr Foley was thanked by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP).

“Minister Foley proved to be very positive towards and supportive of general practice, including providing additional funding for state GP-led respiratory clinics, GP urgent care clinics, and grants supporting GPs to deliver influenza and COVID-19 vaccinations,” RACGP Victoria Chair Dr Anita Munoz said.

“He consistently acknowledged the vital role general practice plays in Victoria’s health system. He was also willing to think innovatively and hear ideas about how to do things differently.”

Southbank sits in the north-eastern corner of the seat of Albert Park, an electorate immediately south of Melbourne’s CBD.

Alongside Southbank and South Wharf, it also covers the suburbs of Albert Park, Middle Park, Port Melbourne, St Kilda West, South Melbourne, and parts of St Kilda.

It has been held by the Labor Party since 1950, including by former Deputy Premier John Thwaites from 1992 to 2007.

Mr Thwaites’ resignation in July 2007 triggered the by-election that was won by Mr Foley in September of that year. •

 

Caption: Outgoing Albert Park member Martin Foley (back row, second from left) at the opening of Port Melbourne Secondary College in January.

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