Ferguson dumped as Health Minister, Courtney steps up
A shock Cabinet reshuffle has seen the health and police portfolios taken from Michael Ferguson in a significant reset for the state government that has further alienated Speaker Sue Hickey.
Premier Will Hodgman's reshuffle was sparked by frontbencher Jacquie Petrusma's decision to resign from Cabinet for health reasons.
And now his Bass Liberal colleague Ms Courtney will be handed what some say is a poisoned chalice, although the health responsibilities have been split, with Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff to look after a new mental health and wellbeing portfolio.
Premier Will Hodgman said it was "coincidental" that Mrs Petrusma's decision to resign from the frontbench came at about the same time he began entertaining the idea of a Cabinet refresh.
"I've thought in recent times that mid-term ... now into our sixth year in government, we need to obviously look to what serves the people of Tasmania best," he said at a media conference on Sunday.
"There are always very strong arguments for continuity and my government has provided that.
"There will be, on occasion, changes to our team that arise, more often than not through nobody's fault or through circumstances beyond our control."
The Premier said Mr Ferguson had "without doubt" been one of Tasmania's best ever health ministers and had done "an outstanding job".
He paid tribute to his colleague and "good friend" Mrs Petrusma, saying she was "a committed and compassionate and caring person".
"I want to deeply thank Jacquie for her exceptional service as a minister in the majority Liberal government and wish her the very best in her upcoming surgery and in her full recovery," Mr Hodgman said.
Mrs Petrusma has a cochlear implant to aid her hearing. She had a graft put in to protect the implant but said her body had been "rejecting it" which had caused an infection in her inner ear.
"Unfortunately, to replace the graft, I have to be free of all infection," Mrs Petrusma said.
"So I do need to step back so I can get over the infection and have the graft replaced, then go on to enjoy all the benefits that a cochlear implant offers."
Mrs Petrusma said her decision to step away from the frontbench was "probably one of the hardest and most emotional decisions I've had to make".
"I passionately love my portfolios," she said.
"I want to thank the Premier for his care and understanding."
Political analyst Richard Herr said the Cabinet reshuffle gave the government the opportunity to "reboot" while also giving the new ministers time to "settle in" and take charge of their portfolios.
- FROM JUNE: Union protesters 'block' Health Minister Michael Ferguson in car for 12 minutes
- FROM MAY: Health Minister Michael Ferguson dodges a no-confidence motion
- FROM MAY: Patient safety 'severely and routinely' compromised, Auditor-General ED report finds
- FROM APRIL: Ferguson says Labor "insensitive" over death of elderly patient in waiting room
- FROM DECEMBER: Ferguson defends not releasing reports into health system
- FROM OCTOBER: Michael Ferguson rejects Speaker's concerns about his workload
- FROM AUGUST: Ferguson alleged to have disclosed private medical information
"There would be a good argument to say that if you're going to move the deckchairs around, whether they're on the Titanic or on the Spirit of Tasmania, the fact is that they might as well try to settle the pattern rather than deal with the situation that might continue to cripple the government in getting its policies out and its message out," Professor Herr said.
"With her decision to go ... then they really did have to say, 'Are we going to make a jerry-rigged change or are we going to do something that will redistribute our personnel more effectively?'
"And I think that's probably what they decided to do, to get it all done in one go. It's a realistic way to address the problem and maybe have it defused. At least it will be defused for a period of time and if the reshuffle works, then they're in a more secure position than they were before."
Professor Herr said if Speaker Sue Hickey had bided her time until this reshuffle instead of nominating for the speakership at the opening of the parliament, she'd "certainly" be a minister by now.
"That's the prize she wanted, not the speakership," he said.
Opposition Leader Rebecca White, who spearheaded Labor's recent no-confidence and censure motions relating to Mr Ferguson, said the Premier had "finally declared no confidence in Michael Ferguson".
"Sarah Courtney must show more courage in the Cabinet than Mr Ferguson did," she said in a statement.
"Labor is prepared to work with the new Health Minister if she is truly willing to listen."
The Australian Medical Association welcomed the news of the health portfolio reshuffle.
"The Tasmanian Health Service and the health portfolio [have] been caught in a deepening crisis for an extended period," AMA Tasmania president John Burgess said.
"The AMA sees this Cabinet reshuffle as a sensible way of health moving forward with a fresh start."
"However, there needs to a fresh approach throughout the health bureaucracy and a hard look at how to improve the culture in the health bureaucracy."
Mr Ferguson will now be responsible for the state growth, small business and infrastructure and transport portfolios, which were formerly the remit of Treasurer Peter Gutwein and Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff, respectively.
Mr Hodgman will take on manufacturing and defence, while Mr Gutwein will remain Treasurer and also serve as the Environment, Parks and Heritage Minister.
In addition to being handed the new mental health portfolio, Mr Rockliff will retain the education and training portfolio and take on sport and recreation, formerly held by Mrs Petrusma.
Mrs Petrusma was also Minister for Women, Disability Services and Community Development. Ms Courtney will now be the Minister for Women in Mrs Petrusma's place.
Housing Minister Roger Jaensch has been given the task of handling the Aboriginal affairs portfolio.
Lyons MHA Mark Shelton has been promoted to the frontbench, being awarded the police, fire and emergency management ministry, as well as local government.
Attorney-General Elise Archer will add building and construction to her list of portfolios.
Braddon MHA Joan Rylah will be Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier, while Prosser MLC Jane Howlett will be Parliamentary Secretary for Regional and Community Development.
Sue Hickey threatens to defect from Libs, wanted housing portfolio
Speaker of the House of Assembly Sue Hickey has been overlooked for a Cabinet position again and says she "could become an independent", threatening to plunge Premier Will Hodgman into minority government.
Mr Hodgman announced a significant Cabinet reshuffle on Sunday afternoon, prompted by Minister for Women Jacquie Petrusma's shock resignation from the frontbench due to health issues.
Ms Hickey said she was "annoyed" that she heard rumours of the reshuffle after being contacted by the media before she heard the news from the Premier himself.
"Politics is always about politics, not ability," a frustrated Ms Hickey said.
"I have been publicly snubbed [for Cabinet] twice.
"I am the most liberal of Liberals but am obviously not appreciated for what I bring to the party and that is taking it away from the ... issues people are concerned about."
In an ominous sign for the Hodgman government, Ms Hickey left the door open to defecting from the Liberals and becoming an independent, which would reduce the government to a minority situation.
- FROM MAY: Sue Hickey distracting from Hodgman success says former Premier
- FROM MAY: Sue Hickey votes against her own government again
- FROM NOVEMBER: Sue Hickey elected Speaker of lower house in shock development
- FROM NOVEMBER: Sue Hickey a new 'third force' in politics, says academic
- FROM MAY 2018: Hodgman confident in majority government despite Sue Hickey's rogue move
"Maybe they [the Liberals] want me to go as an independent," she said.
"I will always have the confidence of the state as my priority but I will have a conversation about what this all means and I could become an independent."
Ms Hickey said she rang Mr Hodgman and left a message for him after being contacted by the media about his announcement.
"I was not told which is very annoying and so much for being part of the team," she said.
"He rang me 10 minutes before his media conference and said I was doing a good job and contributing in my own way."
Ms Hickey said she was "thrilled" that Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff had been given the newly created mental health portfolio.
"I wish Sarah well - she will need every piece of stamina she's got for the hardest job around," she said.
Ms Hickey had hoped to be offered the housing portfolio.
"I have done a lot in that area," she said. "I was the only one who realised winter was coming and we have more money for emergency housing now and in health I got extra money for women's health and the emergency department."
"I believe I can still do a lot and maybe if I was a minister I would be bound by cabinet solidarity.
"I'll be weighing it all up this week. All I want is respect."
She also criticised the fact that there were now only two Southern-based ministers in the new Cabinet.
"It seems to be about postcodes," Ms Hickey said.
Mr Hodgman said he believed Ms Hickey would "continue to play an important role as Speaker" and said it was "wrong" to say she had been snubbed.
"I would hope Sue, who was elected as a Liberal, would continue to serve as part of a majority Liberal government," he said.
The Premier said he had spoken to Ms Hickey before the announcement and that she had not expressed to him the sentiments she later aired via the media.
Two Cabinet portfolios added, disability removed
Disability services has been removed as a portfolio in the Tasmanian state government, and prevention of family violence and mental health have both been added.
Disability advocate Kristen Desmond said the removal of the portfolio sent "a very strong message to people with disability about how important this government thinks those constituents are".
"I'm really disappointed about that - really disappointed," she said.
"We've got a disability Royal Commission starting, and the government doesn't seem to think it's important enough to have a minister that can work with what comes out of that.
"It's very disappointing that we now don't have someone in charge of disability policy in this state."
A government spokesperson said it will be incorporated into the larger human services and community development portfolio, which is the responsibility of Roger Jaensch and also includes child and youth services, sexual assault support services, and providing community programs for vulnerable people. Roger Jaensch also holds the portfolios of housing and Aboriginal affairs.
Mr Hodgman said Mr Jaensch was "passionately committed to supporting people and organisations in our communities that support those most in need", and Labor MLC Jo Siejka said she would continue as opposition spokesperson for disability.
Meanwhile, Premier Will Hodgman will also take over the portfolio of prevention of family violence, and Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff will add Minister for Mental Health to his responsibilities.
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Laurel House chief executive Justine Brooks said having a designated family violence portfolio was a step in the right direction, although she wished sexual violence prevention was also given a ministry.
"Not all sexual violence happens within the family unit, and there's a level of hush-hush shame about it, and there shouldn't be," she said. "But I applaud their step in the right direction by actually creating a new portfolio, we really support that."
Mr Hodgman said he would continue the "nation-leading" reforms already happening in prevention of family violence in Tasmania.
On mental health, he said that the issue was "a priority area for our government", and that Jeremy Rockliff would lead its strong focus on mental health and wellbeing.
New Health Minister must restore access to terminations, Nelson MLC Meg Webb says
The newest member of the state's Legislative Council has used the latest Cabinet reshuffle announcement to put pressure on the new Health Minister Sarah Courtney to restore access to terminations in the public health system.
Independent Nelson MLC Meg Webb, who was elected in May following the retirement of Legislative Council president Jim Wilkinson, said that with the portfolios of health and women being "brought together" and handed to Ms Courtney, there was "an opportunity to right the wrongs against Tasmanian women over the past 18 months".
The state hasn't had a low-cost provider of abortion services for more than a year, after the previous provider withdrew from Tasmania due to a lack of demand.
"From today there should be a reset, with Tasmanian women provided with access to terminations within our public health system," Ms Webb said.
"I extend my congratulations and support to Sarah Courtney in her new roles and strongly encourage her to make her mark on this issue.
"She can immediately bring this government into the 21st century and show Tasmanian women, especially those in regional and rural communities, that she will act in their best interests."
Ms Webb said Tasmanian women deserved to access a "full suite" of health services "regardless of their income or location".
"The community overwhelmingly supports access to safe and affordable terminations, and with this Cabinet reshuffle we can move on from the ideological influence that has overshadowed this issue in recent years," she said.
Meet Mark Shelton: Local government, and police, fire and emergency management minister
A farmer, mechanic and former mayor has been appointed to the state government cabinet during a reshuffle.
Liberal Lyons MHA Mark Shelton will become the Police, Fire and Emergency Management Minister, and Local Government Minister.
Mr Shelton is an experienced member of parliament and has served as the Speaker of the House. He has also been the previous Liberal spokesman for police.
He was parliamentary secretary to the Premier, as well as Regional Development, House of Assembly Deputy Speaker, committee chairman, and sat on numerous committees.
He also held the Police and Emergency Services, Sport & Recreation, Racing, Consumer Affairs, Forestry and Regional Development portfolios while in opposition.
He was previously the Meander Valley mayor, before being elected into state politics in 2010.
Mr Shelton and his wife Merrilyn live at Bracknell, have three adult children and seven grandchildren. He operates an 80-hectare farm with his brother.
Mr Shelton was a former automotive studies teacher at TAFE and adult education.