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Ley holds on in Turnbull overhaul

Ley holds on in Turnbull overhaul - Featured Image

The massive health portfolio has been left largely untouched by the turmoil in Canberra in the past week, with Health Minister Sussan Ley retaining her position in the new ministry announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

While Mr Turnbull – who defeated incumbent Tony Abbott in a Liberal Party leadership ballot on 14 September – has made a number of significant changes to the Government’s frontbench, Ms Ley, who became Health Minister two days before Christmas last year, has held on to her job. She has not disclosed who she voted for in the leadership contest.

In a move replete with symbolic and substantive meaning, Mr Turnbull has also brought WA Indigenous MP and former senior health bureaucrat Ken Wyatt on to the frontbench as Assistant Health Minister.

In 2010, Mr Wyatt became the first Aboriginal person to be elected to the House of Representatives, and is expected to bring a renewed focus on Indigenous health, having served as WA’s Director of Aboriginal Health.

But the new Prime Minister has clipped the wings of Ms Ley’s junior minister in the health portfolio, former Assistant Health Minister Senator Fiona Nash, who has had her responsibilities narrowed to rural health after sparking a number of controversies in the position.

Senator Nash’s chief of staff Alistair Furnival was forced to resign early last year over allegations of conflict of interest when he directed the Health Department to take down the website for the Health Star Food Rating System and it was subsequently revealed he retained an interest in a lobbying firm that had major food manufacturers as clients.

And television presenter David Koch resigned as head of the Organ and Tissue Authority’s advisory council resigned from the position on national television and fired a broadside at Senator Nash after she announced a review of the organisation’s performance.

Mr Koch accused Senator Nash of caving into pressure from the ShareLife advocacy group, which he said wanted to “take control” of the organ donation program:  “It’s an absolute disgrace,” he said.

Senator Nash, who is a senior member of the National Party, will help oversee the introduction of a revised classification system, the Modified Monash Model, to guide the allocation of Commonwealth rural health incentive payments.

Adrian Rollins

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