Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced his new ministry over the weekend and, owing to a slew of retirements at the election, changes abound.
Amongst the most significant was the departure of Ken Wyatt from the aged care space after serving from 2016, first as Assistant Minster for Health and Aged Care and finally Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care.
He leaves to become the first Indigenous Minister for Indigenous Affairs.
Taking his place as the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care is Tasmanian Senator Richard Colbeck.
A former carpenter and small business owner in the construction industry prior to entering politics, Colbeck has been a Liberal politician since his first election as a senator in 2002.
Casualty of war
He was re-elected in the 2007 and 2013 elections but fell victim to the factional wars of Abbott-Turnbull-Dutton-Morrison and, due to his support of Turnbull, was given an unwinnable position on the ticket in 2016.
However, Colbeck became one of the lucky winners of the section 44 debacle, finding his way back into a senate position in 2018 after senate president Stephen Parry was forced to resign.
He was rewarded by the new Morrison government with a position as Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, and during his career he has served as parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Finance and Administration, and Agriculture. He has also served as Minister for Tourism and International Education and minister assisting the Minster for Trade and Investment.
Colbeck also served under shadow parliamentary secretary roles in the Health, Industry and Innovation, and Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry portfolios.
Welcomes and goodbyes
In a statement on the reshuffle, LASA chief executive Sean Rooney urged immediate reform in the areas of funding for emergency residential care, legislating maximum wait times for home care at three months and investment in the workforce.
He also welcomed the new minister and took time to thank the outgoing minister, Wyatt.
“Minister Colbeck brings to the role fresh eyes along with a wide breadth of professional and parliamentary experiences at a critical time for Australia’s aged care system,” he said.
“Minister Wyatt worked tirelessly to press ahead with the reform agenda in aged care. His contribution to aged care reform has been tangible and credible. Our industry wishes him well in his new role as Minister for Indigenous Australians.”
ACSA chief Pat Sparrow also welcomed the minister and sees this as a time for optimism whilst the aged care sector is in the national spotlight.
“Congratulations to the new Minister for taking on what is one of the most important and potentially rewarding posts in the new parliament. There are significant challenges, but also huge opportunities presented by our ageing nation,” she said.
“What we really need is a better plan for our own ageing and for the ageing population. We are delivering our incoming government brief to the new Minister and are committing to engaging constructively to come up with this long-term plan.”
Colbeck will have a full plate in his new position, combining his aged care portfolio with that of youth, as well as picking up the sport portfolio from Bridget McKenzie.
Dr Sarah Russell, director and principal researcher at Research Matters and director of Aged Care Matters, said she believes that this decision leaves the aged care portfolio without the attention it needs.
“I am critical of the decision to give Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck both aged care and senior Australians and youth and sport portfolios. With an ageing population and the serious systemic problems identified during the aged care royal commission, Australia needs a Minister who is focused solely on aged care and older people,” she said.
“I also believe the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians should be a member of Cabinet.”
However, Colbeck disagrees and looks at his new portfolio troika as a positive development.
“I am delighted that Youth and Sport have also been included in my responsibilities, because it acknowledges that age should not divide our community – rather, as families and as a nation we can be brought together as we meet life’s many challenges and opportunities,” he told Aged Care Insite.
In a statement, Colbeck said: “It is an important time in these portfolios, particularly with the aged care royal commission underway and the need to support senior Australians in their later life.
“Fundamentally, this portfolio is all about people, which is what makes it so exciting.”
In a statement on Twitter, Wyatt said: “Incredibly honoured to be the first Aboriginal Minister for Indigenous Australians, committed to working & walking together with our Elders, families & communities to ensure the greatness of our many nations is reflected in the greatness of our Australian nation, now and forever.”
Elsewhere in the health sphere, Greg Hunt continues as Minister for Health.Do you have an idea for a story?
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