As Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced her ministry this weekend, surprises came forth. Australian Medical Association and Aboriginal medical groups initially were dismayed when she decided to axe the Indigenous Health portfolio. Federal Labor MP Warren Snowdon was moved into Veterans' Affairs initially from where he was reinstated to his earlier position as Indigenous Health Minister. He assured that this reinstatement is not in response to the reaction from Indigenous and rural health groups.
He said, “The discussions that I had over the weekend didn't involve any discussions about annoyance or anything…We just talked about the need to have this position reinstated in the ministry and that's what happened yesterday.”
Country Liberals Senator Nigel Scullion said more needs to be done towards indigenous health. “At the end of the day this is a very, very important area…If we're going to close the gap on these areas we need to get the governance right, we need to get the structures right and it is good that they've eventually got it right…It does seem that this has been an afterthought,” he said.
The Australian Medical Association however feels that the removal and reinstatement of the portfolio shows the issue had slipped off the agenda. The AMA's Northern Territory branch president, Dr Paul Bauert said that Mr. Snowdon has a good grasp of the issues, but has been let down by lack of funding. “The problem was that I don't think in his first three years in this position that he was given adequate resources and infrastructure to achieve some of these outcomes…So we're hopeful now that he's been given another term ... he may walk the walk rather than just talk the talk as we've seen for the first three years,” he said. Funds to the tune of $10 million a year over the next decade may be needed says the AMA for non-government organizations to expand beyond primary health care to early childhood education, nutrition and care.
Similar changes happened with the Education portfolio over the weekend. After an outcry from the higher education sector over the PM’s decision to name Mr. Chris Evans Minister for Jobs, Skills and Workplace Relations, Senator Evans had “Tertiary Education” added to his title.