A former solicitor and operations manager of the Australian Labor Party state branch has been appointed Minister for Agriculture, which includes forestry, in Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan’s new cabinet.
As reported by Wood Central publisher last week, Premier Allan survived a push by the ALP Unity faction to install a new leader.
Ros Spence will also take responsibility for volunteers and carers, which puts her at the front line of any bushfire action this summer.
Volunteering Victoria has welcomed her appointment.
“We are particularly excited to see ‘volunteers’ elevated into the ministerial title,” a spokesman said.
“As the state peak body for volunteering, we will be providing briefings to the minister on the priorities and needs of the sector in times where volunteers and volunteer engagement leadership capabilities are needed more than ever.”
Ros Spence graduated from Melbourne’s Eltham High School in 1989 and has a Bachelor of Law and Arts from the University of Tasmania.
She replaces Gayle Tierney, who will become Minister for Skills and TAFE in the latest cabinet shakeup and Minister for Regional Development.
Liberal MP Bev McArthur said in an interview with Sky News Australia this week that Jacinta Allan had just “changed a few deck chairs on the Titanic” after she revealed her state’s new cabinet after the resignation of Dan Andrews.
“It doesn’t look an awful lot different,” according to Ms McArthur.
“The policies have all been put in place over a long period of time under Andrews.
“The far-left radical ideology that permeates everything they do, I’m sure, won’t change because it’s all locked in place.”
“Victoria still has to pay the price of Andrews’ appalling legacy.”
The Victorian government under Andrews declared an early end to native timber harvesting in the state by the close of 2024.
This decision dramatically accelerated the plan announced in 2019, which targeted phasing out native timber harvesting by 2030.
According to former Environmental Minister Ingrid Stitt, the transition would see the largest expansion to public forests in Victorian history – “protecting precious biodiversity and endangered species”.
In the new cabinet, Minister Stitt takes over the Mental Health, Ageing and Multicultural Affairs portfolios in the new ministry and is replaced by Steve Dimopolous, who has become Minister for the Environment, Tourism, Sport and Major Events.
Before being elected to state parliament, Dimopoulos was a councillor and former mayor of the City of Monash. He previously worked as a public servant in the Department of Justice and the Department of the Premier and Cabinet.
The critical housing portfolio has gone to Harriet Shing, Victoria’s first cabinet minister with a Chinese background.
According to Forestry Australia president Dr Michelle Freeman, the Victorian government’s blanket bans on native forest harvesting will not improve carbon balance or recover biodiversity.
Freeman said the consensus of independent scientific experts, forest managers, and researchers is that active management of forests was required to maintain forest health, mitigate fire risk, conserve biodiversity and maximize carbon outcomes.
“Although on face-value decisions to end native forest harvesting may appear to be a ‘win’ for the environment, Victoria and Western Australia are now facing a range of unintended negative consequences,” Freeman said in a media statement in June.
“These decisions have been made without clear alternate strategies or funding for the required active management and monitoring. Passive approaches will risk our forests when their critical threats – bushfires, invasive species and climate change – are increasing.”
“Additionally, the rapid exit of specialist skills, experience, knowledge and equipment from the forest management space is reducing our capacity to implement effective forest management plans and mitigate or respond effectively to bushfire emergencies.”