Featured Health Reform

AUSTRALIA’S HEALTH MINISTER

Week one of the Election Campaign has been anything but boring thanks to an energised Government and an Opposition on the defensive. With health forming the key centre piece of the Opposition’s campaign, the current Health Minister, the Hon. Greg Hunt MP, will be campaigning hard to promote the reforms and achievements he and the Prime Minister have made since coming to government.

Election 2019 will be the seventh consecutive election Greg Hunt will be contesting for his House of Representatives seat of Flinders in Victoria.

Born in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, Hunt graduated from Melbourne University in 1990 with a First-Class Honours Law Degree, deciding to continue his studies at Yale University in the United States after being selected for a Fullbright Scholarship.

Back in Australia, Hunt worked as an associate to the Chief Justice of the Federal Court, before entering politics for the first time as a senior advisor to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Alexander Downer MP. During his work with Downer, Hunt was appointed to head Australia’s electoral mission to Cambodia in 1998.

Hunt later moved to the private sector where he worked for the management consulting company McKinsey & Co, becoming an engagement manager specialising in telecommunications, start-ups, government reform and banking.

In 2001, Hunt returned to his hometown in Victoria to campaign for, and be elected as, the Federal Member for Flinders in the then government of Prime Minister the Hon. John Howard MP. Following the 2004 election, Prime Minister Howard appointed Hunt as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage.

Following the 2007 Federal Election which saw Labor form government under then Prime Minister the Hon. Kevin Rudd MP, Hunt was appointed Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Environment and Urban Water by then Opposition Leader the Hon. Brendan Nelson MP. Throughout the tenure of Opposition Leaders Nelson, the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP and the Hon. Tony Abbott MP, Hunt held the Shadow Ministry role with slight tweaks to his title by each incoming Opposition Leader.

After the Coalition’s successful election victory in 2013 under then Prime Minister Abbott, Hunt was appointed as Minister for the Environment. During this period, Hunt declared his greatest achievements in the portfolio were to establish Australia’s Emissions Reduction Fund, develop the Great Barrier Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan and invest $1 billion into the Reef Fund.

In 2016, Hunt was recognised internationally by Thomson Reuters as the ‘Best Minister in the World’, during that year’s World Government Summit in Dubai.

After the ascension of Malcolm Turnbull as Liberal Party Leader and Prime Minister and following then Health Minister Sussan Ley’s resignation from Cabinet, Hunt was elevated to Minister for Health. Upon being promoted Hunt stated that his vision as minister was to guarantee Australians’ access to health services and affordable medicines with the establishment of the Medicare Guarantee Fund, as well as ensuring the security of the ongoing funding of Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Since inheriting the Health portfolio, Hunt has announced the extension of the Health Care Homes program to June 2021, to help with coordinating the care for patients with chronic and complex conditions, and brought mental health to the forefront of the healthcare discussion, by investing a record $1.45 billion for community mental health services.

During a 2010 speech, Hunt explained that his mother Kathinka suffered a form of bipolar disorder.

“It’s not something about which I have talked much about. He condition was not preventively debilitating but it was significant,” Hunt said.

One in five Australians experience a common mental disorder each year. Nearly half of the Australian population experiencing a mental illness at some point in their lives, with less than half accessing treatment for it.

Hunt has a personal passion for Genomics, a type of study that address genes and their inter-relationships within the body to better identify their influence on how these organisms grow and develop. In an interview given on the subject he said, “This is one of my great personal passions and priorities for the transformation, not just of Australia’s medical research but our health system and our treatment over the coming decade.”

Health is always a key issue in every Federal Election, however with the massive spending announcements from the Opposition in the first week of the election campaign, it has become even more prominent. The Government’s, and to a large extent Minister Hunt’s, vision and record in Health will be put to the test by voters when it comes time to cast their vote.

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