A SIGNIFICANT chapter in the history of South Gippsland closed this week with the resignation from the Victorian Parliament of long-time Member for Gippsland South Peter Ryan.
“It has been my singular honour to represent the electors of Gippsland South in the Victorian Parliament for more than 22 years,” said Mr Ryan in the public statement he released on Monday. “With the Liberal National Coalition Government having lost office at the November 2014 State Election, I believe it is timely and in the best interests of the people of Gippsland South that I now stand aside and enable my successor to be elected.”
Peter Ryan was first elected to the Victorian Legislative Assembly as the Member for Gippsland South in 1992. In December 1999 he was elected unopposed as the Parliamentary Leader of The Nationals. In February 2008, with the Leader of the Liberal Party, Ted Baillieu, he established the Liberal National Coalition, which won government in November 2010. Mr Ryan was appointed Deputy Premier as well as Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Minister for Regional and Rural Development and Minister for State Development.
He chose not to re-nominate as Parliamentary leader of The Nationals when the Coalition lost the state election to Labor last November.
Now he has decided to step away from politics altogether. “I have reached this decision after very careful consideration over Christmas and the new year of all relevant factors and having discussed the matter with my wife Trish and our children,” said Mr Ryan. “I express my sincere thanks to Trish and to our children Sarah, James and Julian for the magnificent support they have provided me since I was first elected in 1992. My subsequent parliamentary involvement would simply not have been possible without them.”
Mr Ryan called into Foster last Friday to advise ‘The Mirror’ of his imminent announcement. He took the opportunity to express his thanks to the people of Foster and district for the opportunity to represent them in Parliament and said that Gippsland (Sale) would continue to be his home.
Asked to nominate some of his proudest achievements in the Corner Inlet region, he said that together with the community he had been able to achieve many things. Highlights in this area include the new hospital at Leongatha, the complete upgrade of South Gippsland Secondary College at Foster and further development of the Great Southern Rail Trail.
“I was instrumental in developing the package of initiatives to address the problems arising from the dreadful floods at the Prom in March 2011,” Mr Ryan said. “The people of the region are its heartbeat and I’ve had the great honour to work with them at our most difficult times of floods, fires and droughts. They are amazingly resilient. I have also worked with many elements of our business community to bring as many jobs to our region as possible. Obviously, agribusiness underpins our local economy. I believe the opening up of the many international markets offers great opportunities, especially in dairying. That said, I’m always conscious that someone has to get up and milk the cows!”
Mr Ryan said that the opening of the port at Barry Point had been another significant development for the region. It was, he said, a case of “a long held dream becoming a reality”.
Current Leader of the Opposition Matthew Guy expressed his appreciation to Mr Ryan for his outstanding service to the people of Victoria and the Victorian Coalition parties. Describing him as a giant of State politics, he said that Peter Ryan had always been a huge advocate for rural and regional Victoria.
“Importantly, Peter will be remembered as playing a vital role in helping to secure victory in the 2010 state election and working with Ted Baillieu to restore the Victorian Coalition,” said Mr Guy. “As Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development, Peter was in charge of the Coalition’s successful $1 billion Regional Growth Fund that generated considerable investment, growth and jobs in rural and regional areas across the State. As Minister for Bushfire Response, Peter worked to ensure that the recommendations of the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission were implemented so that communities were better protected. In his role as Minister for State Development, Peter fought to create more jobs and opportunities for Victorian businesses – highlighted by the Coalition Government’s rescue package for SPC at Shepparton. As Police Minister Peter began the roll out of the hugely successful PSO program on metropolitan and major regional railway stations. The Victorian Parliament is losing a man of extraordinary experience and wisdom. Spring Street will feel the loss of a fine elder statesman.”
Mr Ryan, who is 64, said he had no plans to retire. “I’m unsure of what the future holds, but that’s what makes life exciting!”
He said that he was a great believer in a succession plan and he felt he was leaving The Nationals in a good position, with an impressive pool of talent and some rising stars in “two brilliant young women – Steph Ryan and Emma Kealy” who won seats at the last election.
Mr Ryan’s resignation will trigger a by-election, likely to take place in four to nine weeks, following pre-selection of a new Nationals candidate. Mr Ryan would not be drawn as to who should represent The Nationals in the very safe seat of Gippsland South, saying it was up to party members to decide. However, he did say: “I do think that if Danny O’Brien [currently Nationals Member for Eastern Region in the Upper House] were to run he’d be a terrific candidate.”