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Aged care scandals ensure fixing sector is a job for federal cabinet

Responsibility for the aged care sector will be elevated to the top levels of the Federal Government in the wake of the deadly coronavirus pandemic and scathing reviews of the sector.

 

Dec 18, 2020, updated Dec 18, 2020
Queenslander Amanda Stocker will become the Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General. Photo: ABC News/Tamara Penniket)

Queenslander Amanda Stocker will become the Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General. Photo: ABC News/Tamara Penniket)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the change as part of a minor ministerial reshuffle which also included the appointment of Queensland senator Amanda Stoker as an assistant minister.

The reshuffle was prompted following the departure of former finance minister Mathias Cormann from cabinet.

Health Minister Greg Hunt will add aged care to his responsibilities, with Richard Colbeck, who hasdheld the portfolio, being responsible for senior Australians and aged care services.

Morrison denied this meant a demotion for Colbeck, who has faced criticism for his handling of the portfolio during the pandemic.

Colbeck was unable to name the number of people who had died from COVID-19 in aged care homes.

“It’s not about the individuals,” the Prime Minister told reporters.

“It’s about the care being provided to elderly Australians.

“It’s not about politics. It’s about people and ensuring we have the biggest and best response to the aged care challenges that are very serious.

Regional Victorian Dan Tehan will become the Trade Minister and Alan Tudge replaces him in the education portfolio.

Former trade minister Simon Birmingham took on the finance portfolio following Cormann’s departure.

Tehan is a former diplomat, turned trade advisor to a former politician who held the role he’s now taking over.

He comes to the portfolio just days after Australia announced it would take China to the World Trade Organization over a barley dispute.

Australian beef, wine, coal, lobsters, cotton and timber exports have all fallen victim to Chinese import tariffs this year, introduced in the wake of Australia calling for an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic in Wuhan.

Nationals had hoped their party would reclaim the trade portfolio, having held it in Government prior to the Coalition’s victory in 2013.

“They can have trade but we’ll take agriculture,” a senior Liberal offered in response to the Nationals’ push.

Some Nationals had hoped Anne Ruston, a senator originally from regional South Australia, might take on trade if the portfolio stayed with the Liberals, but she’s retained the social services portfolio.

Most of the other Cabinet positions remain unchanged, with six women and four Nationals.

There are two promotions to the ministry, with Victorian Jane Hume becoming the Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and the Digital Economy.

ACT senator Zed Seselja will become the Minister for International Development and the Pacific.

Morrison elevated two backbenchers — Queensland senator Amanda Stoker and Western Australian MP Andrew Hastie.

Senator Stoker, a former barrister and prosecutor, becomes the Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General.

Hastie, a former SAS soldier and current head of a powerful parliamentary intelligence committee, becomes the Assistant Minister for Defence.

His elevation to the frontbench comes at the expense of fellow WA MP Steve Irons, who Morrison said had stepped aside to allow Mr Hastie’s promotion.

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