Starting over: Hunt a chance to ‘reset’ or not

4 minute read

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has named Industry Minister Greg Hunt as Sussan Ley's replacement


Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has underlined the critical significance of the health portfolio in naming Industry Minister Greg Hunt to take over the role. 

Announcing the replacement for Sussan Ley, the prime minister praised Mr Hunt’s “policy, analytical and communication” skills.

“He is ideally suited to take on the very important, critically important, frontline portfolio of health and sport,” Mr Turnbull said. 

Mr Hunt, 51, joined the cabinet as environment minister in 2013.  He served nearly three years in that role and stepped up to the industry, innovation and science portfolio after the July 2016 election.  

During the election, health policy emerged as a vulnerable area for the Coalition thanks to a successful Labor campaign on threats to Medicare as well as a welter of criticisms from doctors.    

RACGP President Bastian Seidel said the first priority under a new minister should be the lifting of the Medicare rebate freeze for all GP items.  

“Lifting the freeze is financially responsible policy,” he said. 

A taskforce under the Medicare Benefits Schedule Review is continuing vital work on general practice items this year.  

“There’s no doubt the MBS review is going to be the single most important policy initiative that could benefit GPs,” Dr Seidel said.

The other pressing issue awaiting Mr Hunt will be the Health Care Homes trials, due to start in July, which the RACGP says are disastrously underfunded.

AMA President Michael Gannon told The Medical Republic the ministerial reshuffle could be a chance for fresh momentum in health. 

“It is an opportunity to reset,” he said.

“Sadly, we have to start again with a minister coming to terms with the massive depth of the health portfolio.”

Dr Gannon commended Ms Ley’s “positive and consultative” style as minister and said he hoped the same approach would continue. 

“One of her achievements was the way she set up the MBS review, ensuring consultation with senior doctors in the specialties,” he said.

Ms Ley, who resigned from the front bench because of a travel expenses scandal, has left an array of health reforms in mid-stream.  

To general surprise, Mr Hunt  was  honoured with  the inaugural Best Minister in the World award at the World Government Summit hosted by the United Arab Emirates in July last year, apparently for his work on the Great Barrier Reef.

In the reshuffle, Ken Wyatt has been elevated to Minister for Aged Care and Minister for Indigenous Health, a step up from his assistant minister responsibilities.

He the first indigenous person appointed to the commonwealth ministry.

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