Health Minister Michael Ferguson has shrugged off suggestions from Speaker Sue Hickey that he needs a rest or some help.
Tasmanian academic Professor Richard Herr described Ms Hickey’s comments on Mr Ferguson and the government’s performance as “unheard of” by a parliamentary speaker.
“I appreciate Sue’s concern for my workload,” Mr Ferguson said on Sunday.
“It is a heavy workload but I’ve got a great team around me.
“We’re delivering, we’re getting runs on the board.”
Mr Ferguson said he always engaged with health staff and stakeholders and had spent two days with his federal and interstate counterparts on long term health funding.
“I’ll never stop listening and I’ll never stop working for the people of Tasmania, that’s what they elected us to do,” he said.
Ms Hickey suggested Mr Ferguson give up his other portfolio responsibilities of police and emergency services and science and technology to concentrate on health. She also suggested he needed to “change the way he relates to people to some extent.”
“I’m not blaming Michael, he is in a terrible position,” Ms Hickey said.
Professor Herr said Ms Hickey’s comments seemed to be designed to lift her public profile.
“It is unusual and unheard of for a Speaker to reflect on the activities of government,” he said.
“She is not in a position where she can behave like a backbencher.
“There is an element of populism about the position she is taking.”
Professor Herr said former Liberal speaker Graeme Page, who also took the position when he was not the party’s first choice, had “not openly or overtly run a political agenda.”
“Labor’s Michael Polley was well known as a key numbers man but he kept it within his own party and not in the public domain and was regarded as a very good speaker,” he said.
“Ms Hickey is new to parliament and new to the experience of this office.”
Professor Herr said Ms Hickey was not endearing herself to her colleagues by her public comments and was unlikely to attract Labor or Greens voters at the next election.
Ms Hickey, a former business owner and Hobart Lord Mayor, said she was sick of the“verbal ping-pong” and MPs blaming each other and focusing on four year election cycles.