Premier can seize chance for new look
THE resignations of two cabinet ministers have given Premier Jay Weatherill the opportunity to rejuvenate his cabinet six months out from the next state election.
While the departure of Health and Arts Minister Jack Snelling leaves a gap in the Government’s senior ranks, the resignation of the other health portfolio minister, Leesa Vlahos, was both inevitable and overdue.
Ms Vlahos failed in her role as Minister for Disabilities, Mental Health and Substance abuse when she was put to the test by the Oakden aged care crisis. She was slow to read or respond to the alarming report by Chief Psychiatrist Dr Aaron Groves into the abuse of residents at the mental health facility for older people.
Ms Vlahos’ revelation in May that her only conversations with Mental Health Commissioner Chris Burns about the crisis at Oakden had been during a chance encounter at a hardware store rightly angered the families of residents at the home.
As revealed in The Advertiser today, Ms Vlahos will move to the backbench of Parliament to focus on recovering from a period of illhealth while continuing as the MP for Taylor.
Mr Weatherill will today unveil the ministry he plans to take to the next election. He would be wise to use the departures of Mr Snelling and Ms Vlahos to combine their former health-related portfolios under a single minister and reduce the size of the cabinet.
Cutting the size of the ministry from 14 to 13 would save money while having a negligible impact on Government efficiency.
The Advertiser revealed in 2014 that the addition of former Liberal leader Martin Hamilton-Smith to cabinet would cost taxpayers about $8 million in office and staffing expenses.
The Government now has an opportunity to set an example for the rest of the state’s overly-large public sector by eliminating the expense of one minister. That would be an announcement to be welcomed by voters who will cast their verdict on the Labor Government on March 17 next year.