Senator Richard Colbeck has been given a free pass on his wish to retain aged care with the portfolio handed to Health Minister Greg Hunt to be the frontman in the media in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s end-of-year Cabinet reshuffle.
Senator Colbeck will retain some responsibility for aged care services, including the delivery of residential and home care packages and regulation of the sector, and his roles as Minister for Senior Australians, Youth and Sport.
Hunt will keep health while adding the primary responsibility of aged care to his list of duties.
The Prime Minister denied that the change was a demotion for Minister Colbeck, who was censured by the Senate in September over his handling of the COVID outbreaks in Australian aged care homes.
Instead, Mr Morrison indicated the change is a pre-emptive one ahead of the Royal Commission’s Final Report due by 26 February 2021 – just over two months away.
“This is about elevating aged care into the Cabinet … because of the seriousness of this issue, the size and scale of the reform program that will need to be implemented post the Royal Commission Report,” he said.
“Richard will continue to play a very important role in the response that the Government brings together in response to the Royal Commission and being able to maintain the continuity and corporate knowledge that has been built up during a very challenging time.”
“I think it will be incredibly important for the Government … as we bring that response to the Royal Commission and the broader strategies of reform next year.”
We would also consider that it enables Hunt to become the Government’s spokesperson on aged care – and bring matters to the Cabinet table – while Colbeck can blend into the background.