News Greg Hunt to quit politics: Report

Greg Hunt to quit politics: Report

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Greg Hunt will reportedly announce his retirement on Thursday.
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Health Minister Greg Hunt is reportedly set to announce he will quit politics at the looming federal election.

Mr Hunt’s office would not comment on the reports, which come after months of rumours about his parliamentary future, on Wednesday but did not refute them either.

According to a report in the Australian Financial Review, Mr Hunt plans to make his announcement on Thursday – parliament’s final sitting day of 2021.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who described Mr Hunt as his closest friend in Parliament, also wouldn’t confirm the report. But he paid tribute to Mr Hunt when quizzed about it on Wednesday.

“We are very dear friends and he has been an outstanding Health Minister through this crisis,” Mr Frydenberg said.

Mr Hunt, who has been health minister throughout the pandemic, has held the Victorian seat of Flinders since 2001. A former environment and industry minister, he comfortably won his seat at the 2019 election by a 55-45 two-party margin.

Mr Frydenberg on Wednesday. Photo: AAP

But – after his gruelling two years leading the health response to the pandemic – there has been gossip in Canberra for months that Mr Hunt might reconsider his future ahead of the coming federal election.

As early as this week, senior Liberal sources had said they believed Mr Hunt would soon announce his intention not to contest the 2022 poll. Potential successors are said to be already quietly assembling campaign teams and preparing to follow him as the Liberal candidate for Flinders.

Mr Hunt has repeatedly shot down talk of his imminent resignation. As late as November 14, he told ABC’s Insiders he was “pre-selected and running” when asked about his election plans.

However, amid speculation that Prime Minister Scott Morrison might call an election as early as January, some political observers believe parliament will not return again before the federal poll. That would make Thursday the last day for traditional “valedictory” speeches in parliament.

Mr Frydenberg was coincidentally giving a press conference just as the AFR’s report was published online on Wednesday. Asked about it, he said only that he would “wait to see the details about Greg Hunt’s comments you have referred to”, but paid tribute to the man he called his “closest friend in this place”.

“The fact that Australia has one of the lowest mortality rates in the world, and the fact that we have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world is due, to no small part, to the incredible work that all health professionals have done across Australia,” he said.

“Greg, as the Health Minister during this once-in-a-century pandemic, has been absolutely outstanding.”

He noted that the two men were godfathers to each other’s daughters.

Former deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth, who worked closely with Mr Hunt through the early stages of the pandemic, tweeted there “was no better person on either side to have this portfolio during this pandemic.”

The New Daily contacted Mr Hunt’s office for comment.

-more to come