Senior Tasmanian minister Michael Ferguson should drop his other portfolio responsibilities to focus on health, colleague and Speaker Sue Hickey says.
The maverick MP has spoken out about the increasing pressures on the state’s health system, saying it was time to consider having a minister dedicated just to health.
“The current Minister … he’s in charge of police — a huge portfolio — he’s in charge of emergency services, another huge portfolio, he’s in charge of science and technology,” Ms Hickey said.
“For goodness sake, that is just too much for one man to be across full time.”
Ms Hickey told ABC Radio Hobart Mr Ferguson needed a significant injection of cash into the health budget, and “probably does need to change the way he relates to people”.
“I think he probably needs to work closer with the Premier and his Cabinet, and the Cabinet need to support him,” she said.
“Michael is very strong on his ideas and I do think that he’s doing his very best, but that doesn’t mean that’s the right outcome.”
Ms Hickey also suggested Mr Ferguson might need a rest.
Health Minister Michael Ferguson is also in charge of police, another big portfolio. (ABC News: Laura Beavis)
Premier Will Hodgman said there was no doubt the health portfolio was receiving appropriate attention from Mr Ferguson.
“But also [from] the colleagues who support him, the health system and those within the health department, and the broader community who are contributing to finding solutions and improvements to our health system which is under strain,” Mr Hodgman said.
“If there was a simple solution someone would have done it by now, but the Government remains committed to continuing to increase our investment.
“We realise that there are more Tasmanians needing health care now, there are almost double the number of [emergency department] presentations occurring now than there were just a couple of years ago, so we are meeting that demand and responding appropriately.”
But Denison MP Andrew Wilkie weighed into debate saying Mr Ferguson was not competent to hold the health portfolio.
“At this time, when there’s a discussion about whether the Health Minister has too many portfolios or not — I think that debate is missing the point,” he said.
“I don’t think Michael Ferguson is fit and proper and competent to hold any portfolio.”
Mr Wilkie does not believe Mr Ferguson is fit to hold any portfolio. (ABC News: David Hudspeth)
Mr Wilkie said the best member of the Government should take on health, only health, and acknowledge there was a problem.
Mr Ferguson said he was focused on delivering solutions and there was more work to do to fix pressures in the health system.
“I remain committed to working hard in the health portfolio and doing everything I can as Minister to deal with increasing demand, which is putting pressure on our hospitals,” he said.
Feds’ growth plan a ‘thought bubble’: Hickey
Ms Hickey has raised concerns about how Tasmania will deal with future growth, in light of the Federal Government’s plan to send migrants to regional areas away from places such as Sydney and Melbourne.
It comes after the Planning Institute’s Irene Duckett called for a better strategic plan to deal with population growth in Tasmania as areas such as health, housing and transport come under increased pressure.
Ms Hickey said the federal plan was a “thought bubble” unless it comes with “serious money”, because there was not enough housing for people already living in the state.
“If these migrants get settled in the outer suburbs then we’ve got more pressure on transport, we’ve got more pressure on our hospitals, where are the houses coming from?” she asked.
“I think migrants are more than welcome, they’ve been wonderful for Australia and brought all sorts of unique benefits to the country, but we can’t just bring them here and put them into poverty.
“We’ve got to have serious money attached to them, so if that’s Scott Morrison’s idea for the week, then he’s got to send it with a big fat cheque.”