As Snelling exits days after RAH opening, another Minister leaves over health
LABOR has been plunged into pre-election turmoil, after Disability and Mental Health Minister Leesa Vlahos last night joined Jack Snelling in resigning from State Cabinet.
Ms Vlahos, who became the face of the Oakden aged care scandal, resigned, citing “personal health’’ reasons, although she will run at next March’s election and remain in parliament in the Legislative Council. “(Health Minister) Jack Snelling’s announcement has given me the chance to reflect on my own plans,’’ she told The Advertiser.
“Following several periods of illness in recent months, I am stepping down to allow more time for my health in the near future.”
Ms Vlahos missed several sitting days in the most recent parliamentary sitting weeks because of ill health.
In her statement, Ms Vlahos made no reference to Oakden, which is subject to numerous inquiries, including one by ICAC Commissioner Bruce Lander, but said she was “very proud’’ of what she had achieved as a minister.
“Including better care for veterans and the Jamie Larcombe centre, new suicide prevention programs and a plan to improve services for people with borderline personality disorder,’’ she said.
Premier Jay Weatherill did mention Oakden and praised his departing minister for leading the “important response to the ill treatment of patients at the Oakden facility, commissioning the report that has led to its closure’’.
Labor will hold a Caucus meeting at 10am today to pick replacements for Ms Vlahos and Mr Snelling, who yesterday surprisingly quit as Health Minister only two weeks after helping to open the new Royal Adelaide Hospital.
Favourites for promotion to Cabinet include Chris Picton, currently Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, and MP for Fisher Nat Cook.
Mr Snelling’s replacement in the politically volatile Health portfolio is likely to be one of Police Minister Peter Malinauskas, Education Minister Susan Close or Employment Minister Kyam Maher.
Mr Snelling’s shock resignation from the ministry and parliament was reported exclusively on advertiser.com.au yesterday. At a subsequent press conference Mr Snelling said the desire to spend more time with his wife and six children was the driving force behind his decision.
He said he had started thinking about his future after his bid to change seats from Playford to Florey sparked a preselection battle with that seat’s incumbent Frances Bedford. Mr Snelling said yesterday he was still confident he would have won the seat.
He would not reveal when he made the decision to quit but said he had some “frank” discussions with the Premier.
Mr Weatherill said he had known of Mr Snelling’s intentions for a “considerable period’’ but would not be more specific. “Obviously I initially asked Jack to reconsider his decision, but it became obvious to me it was about him and his family and it’s not something I wish to intrude upon.’’