Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced a minor re-shuffle of his ministry following the departure of Sussan Ley as Minister for Health earlier this month.
Turnbull has moved quickly to replace Ley following a revelation of misuse of her parliamentary travel allowances and ahead of the return of Federal Parliament on February 7 and what is likely to be a robust political year.
The key appointment of former Industry and Innovation Minister Greg Hunt to the high-profile Health portfolio is the biggest news of the day.
Hunt is from Victoria and is a political moderate who is close to Turnbull. He is a highly-energetic and capable minister who was previously a successful Minister for the Environment. He negotiated the repeal of the unpopular carbon tax through Federal Parliament and was instrumental in Australia signing the Paris Climate Change Agreement in 2016.
Hunt has family connections to the health portfolio. His wife was a nurse and he regularly supports fundraising and awareness-raising efforts in his electorate of Flinders for juvenile diabetes and autism. His mother was bi-polar, so he has a strong affiliation with the impact of mental health issues on families.
As a moderate, while philosophically to the left, he will need all his negotiating skills to maintain spending levels in the traditionally high cost of the public health sector in the face of the Turnbull Government’s desire to cut expenditure and reduce the country’s rising deficit.
The other main portfolio change is to appoint Senator Arthur Sinodinos to the Industry, Innovation and Science ministry formerly held by Greg Hunt. A high-profile and well connected New South Wales Senator, Sinodinos is one of Turnbull’s closest advisers and parliamentary friends.
He was instrumental in seeing Turnbull succeed to the leadership of the Liberal Party in September 2015, deposing Tony Abbott and removing several right-wing members from the Cabinet.
While some question remains over Sinodinos in relation to his fundraising activities in New South Wales politics while Treasurer of the Liberal Party (which is still subject to an ICAC review), the Prime Minister has nevertheless appointed him to an important portfolio that includes Innovation, one of the key planks of the Coalition’s election campaign in 2016.
Senator Sinodinos’ old job of Cabinet Secretary will now sit within the Prime Minister’s office as a public service not elected position. Another key ally, Senator Scott Ryan, has been promoted to Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Cabinet while Ken Wyatt, the nation’s first indigenous House of Representatives Member has been made Minister for Aged Care and Indigenous Health recognising two of the key public policy challenges facing the Government. Conservative Michael Sukkar has been made Assistant Minister to the Treasurer.
While Turnbull has avoided major changes to his barely six-month-old ministry, we can expect these won’t be the last as the year unfolds.
The Prime Minister’s media statement can found here
Nic Jarvis – Head of Public Affairs – Edelman Australia
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