Member for Wagga Wagga Dr Joe McGirr said he was disappointed with Labor’s approach to regional health after Premier Chris Minns unveiled his new cabinet this week.
In a first for NSW, the new frontbench of 22 ministers includes 11 women, however, the streamlined cabinet does not include a separate regional health minister.
Member for Keira, Ryan Park has been appointed both Minister for Health and Minister for Regional Health.
“It is disappointing that there’s not a separate person as the regional health minister,” said Dr McGirr, who has advocated for the 44 recommendations of a report into rural health in NSW to be implemented.
The previous Coalition government committed to implementing 41 of the recommendations including the appointment of Bronnie Taylor to oversee a new regional health portfolio.
“To be honest, the Coalition would probably have also had the same person covering both ministries,” said Dr McGirr responding to pre-election speculation that Ms Taylor was in line to take over the broader health portfolio if the Coalition was returned.
“That it is still a separate ministry is good and I think there should also be a standalone department and I’ll continue to advocate for that,” he said.
“I spoke with Ryan Park and I congratulated him and I think he’s very committed to rural health and implementing the recommendations of the inquiry.”
Ahead of the election, Labor committed to implementing all 44 recommendations including the three rejected by the Coalition, including an inquiry into mental health services and the creation of a new health administration ombudsman to investigate complaints.
“I’ll be working as constructively as I can with the Government to get those outcomes in regional and rural health, and I’ll be holding them accountable for the implementation of the inquiry and making sure those outcomes happen,” said Dr McGirr.
Last week, Dr McGirr and fellow independents, Alex Greenwich and Greg Piper issued a joint statement of ‘confidence and supply’ that enabled Chris Minns to form a minority government.
While Dr McGirr intends to push a rural and regional agenda, he said that the trio’s support was not conditional.
“We did not specifically discuss with the Government details of any of the priorities that we have, and I think that’s appropriate because it’s not about holding a gun to the Government’s head. It’s about a relationship with the Government,” he said.
“We acknowledged that there had clearly been a mandate for change and we understand and believe that needs to be stable government.
“But at the same time, we are maintaining our independence on the floor of the parliament.”
Dr McGirr also acknowledged that the new cabinet included ministries for agriculture, regional NSW and western NSW (MLC Tara Moriarty was named as the minister for the portfolios) and said that he would work to keep regional issues on the agenda.
“It’s important that regional New South Wales not get ignored. I think the Labor Government will have a focus on Sydney and in particular western Sydney, but it’s very important that myself and the independent regional colleagues as well as all regional MPs, hold the Government to account.”