CANBERRA -- The "Best Minister in the World" at the 2016 World Government Summit, Greg Hunt, has been appointed Health Minister in a minor ministerial reshuffle which has reduced the Turnbull Cabinet by one position and by one woman.
The ministerial movements - Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's fourth reshuffle in 16 months - have been forced by the resignation of Sussan Ley over a travel entitlements furore, which is still being investigated.
Turnbull's fourth cabinet:— BuzzFeedOz Politics (@BuzzFeedOzPol) January 17, 2017
Hunt is seen as reliable and a "damage control" minister, although the Victorian MP has had question marks over his own taxpayer funded travel.
For Turnbull, there was no room for a female elevation in the inner or outer ministry and no space for former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who remains on the backbench.
— Nick Dole (@NicholasDole) January 17, 2017
Announcing the changes in Sydney, Turnbull praised Hunt as having "strong policy, analytical and communication skills, developed over a very long front bench career."
Previously a long-term Environment spokesperson for the Coalition, Hunt had been in in the Industry position for just over six months. He said he was "deeply honoured" to take on the role.
New health and sport minister Greg Hunt says he's son and husband to nurses, plus "a sports fan and sports Dad" pic.twitter.com/aIFYXPhLMA— Katina Curtis (@katinacurtis) January 18, 2017
The Victorian MP was awarded the inaugural "Best Minister in the World" title last February at the World Government Summit hosted by the United Arab Emirates.
"He is ideally suited to take on the very important, critically important front line portfolio of health and sport," Turnbull told reporters.
Labor's health spokeswoman Catherine King hopped onto Twitter to tweet a "helpful" to-do list for the new minister.
"Drop the Turnbull Government's health cuts. Reverse the Medicare freeze," she suggested.
Hunt replied without specifically responding, tweeting to King that he looked "forward to working with yourself."
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten also decided to offer some "handy" advice.
First priority for new Health Minister - convince Malcolm Turnbull to drop his attacks on Medicare. #auspol— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp) January 17, 2017
While the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has warned Hunt faces many challenges from day one in his new job.
"The AMA would like to see Mr Hunt get off to a flying start by scrapping the Government's freeze of Medicare patient rebates, which is causing great hardship for patients and doctors," AMA President, Dr Michael Gannon said.
New Health Minister needs to do more than just crunch numbers, looking for savings. Health is about people #auspol— AMA Media (@ama_media) January 17, 2017
With Hunt's move, Senator Arthur Sinodinos has shifted from Cabinet Secretary to Hunt's Industry portfolio. The cabinet secretary function will now return to the Prime Minister's office, reducing the size of Turnbull's Cabinet by one.
Cabinet Secretary role, previously held by Sinodinos, now held by a public servant in PM&C. This reduces the size of the cabinet by one.— Henry Belot (@Henry_Belot) January 17, 2017
The Aged Care portfolio, which was held by Sussan Ley with Health and Sport, has been given to Assistant Health Minister Ken Wyatt.
This makes Wyatt the Minister for Aged Care and the Minister for Indigenous health, although Hunt will represent Aged Care in Cabinet.
Ken Wyatt continues to make history. First Indig man to be elected to House of Reps, first to be promoted to ministry #auspol— Myles Morgan (@ImMylesMorgan) January 17, 2017
In another appointment of note, Michael Sukkar becomes the Assistant Minister to the Treasurer.
"These changes will further strengthen my ministry by combining experience and new talent," Turnbull declared.
Turnbull has defended not using the opportunity to elevate a female MP after the loss of Sussan Ley.
WOMEN IN TURNBULL TEAM:— Alice Workman (@workmanalice) January 17, 2017
- overall 9 women out of 41 spots
- 5 women in 22 strong cabinet
- 4 women in outer & assistant ministerial team
"I have appointed more women to my cabinet than any previous Coalition leader," he said.
"I am very committed to having strong representation of women in the ministry. I have demonstrated that by my actions."
Reminds me of a sign I saw yesterday: "Gents Only". https://t.co/wWYerOyg3Q— Ms Butler (@terrimbutler) January 17, 2017
Amid continuing public outrage at the expenses system for parliamentarians, the Prime Minister reaffirmed commitment to reform.
"We need to have greater transparency, greater accountability, monthly reporting will be very important," he promised.
On parliamentary expenses reform, the PM says "I will shake this up, I can tell you. There is a big cultural change on the way." #auspol— Political Alert (@political_alert) January 17, 2017
"I will shake this up, I can tell you. There is a big cultural change on the way. It is underway already."
On allegations he spent taxpayer money on family holidays, Hunt responded by saying media reports had not "correctly assessed" his travel claims.
The Minister said on trips to south east Queensland he had visited sewerage treatment plants and worked with environment groups and councils.
Hunt asked about reports he spent taxpayer money on family holidays. Said that wasn't a correct assessment. Was visiting sewerage plants etc— Karen Barlow (@KJBar) January 18, 2017
The Prime Minister has again stated he will not release the report by head of his Department into Ley's spending.
Ley resigned from the frontbench last week amid an ongoing expenses scandal, despite claiming she had not broken any rules.
Eric Abetz has put out a release expressing his disappointment there is no Tasmanian in the Ministry.— Lyndal Curtis (@lyndalcurtis) January 17, 2017
The new ministers will be sworn in by the Governor-General in Canberra next Tuesday.