Scott Morrison has promoted Anne Ruston to the cabinet post of health if the Coalition is successful at the May 21 election, but has left it an open question who will replace her in the social services portfolio.
The role of the health portfolio became vacant with Greg Hunt retiring from politics.
“Anne has demonstrated the stakeholder management, the financial skills, but most important having a big heart to be able to deal with the many issues that you need to deal with in the health portfolio,” Mr Morrison told reporters outside the Westmead Children’s Hospital in Sydney.
But Labor leader Anthony Albanese says the appointment of Senator Ruston is another sign that Australians should expect cuts to Medicare.
The Labor leader noted Mr Morrison had chosen to make this major announcement on a day when it was agreed that it would not be a day of usual campaigning because of Easter.
“Anne Ruston has made it very clear that she wants to take the universal out of universal health care,” Mr Albanese told reporters after attending a church service in Cairns with shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers.
Albanese: More cuts coming
“She has made it very clear that, if we have an election of the Morrison government, we will see more cuts to Medicare, more cuts to Medicare over the next three years.”
But Senator Ruston said she was no longer of the view that Medicare was unsustainable, comments she made in 2014.
“I think that we have demonstrated over the past seven or eight years that we are a government that is able to manage money,” she said.
“I think we demonstrated it particularly during the pandemic how strong we were as economic managers, at the same time as supporting Australians through an extraordinarily strong health system.”
Liberal frontbencher Jane Hume threw her support behind the decision, saying it is important to have steady hands at the wheel in this portfolio when the country was still dealing with a global pandemic.
Senator Hume, who is minister for superannuation and financial services, is reported to be Senator Ruston’s replacement in social services, but she was coy on the issue.
“I am a Treasury minister and very proud to be one and there is an awful lot of work to do in my portfolio,” Senator Hume told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program.
Mr Morrison was equally coy when asked who would be Senator Ruston’s replacement.
“Well, the great news about that is I have such a fantastic team that there are many people who could,” he said.
Help for diabetics
Meanwhile, the government has promised $270 million to make the treatment of type one diabetes more affordable.
“It means that for 130,000 patients around the country, they’ll have access to continuous glucose monitoring and that will be subsidised with savings of up to $5000 a year from July 1,” Mr Hunt told the Seven Network.
“Continuous glucose monitoring is an immensely important technology that allows them to manage their insulin levels. It gives patients confidence and peace of mind and it helps save lives and protect lives.”
Meanwhile, more than $60 million is to be invested in mental health and suicide prevention in Western Australia, following a bilateral agreement between the Commonwealth and West Australian governments.
Mr Hunt says the deal will see the delivery of new health services for children and as well as support for people following suicide attempts and those with eating disorders.
“This landmark partnership … will have a significant impact on the lives of many Australians across the state, including young Australians and children who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
“It will help save lives and protect lives.”