McKenzie the minister

Sharon Kemp | Bendigo Weekly | 21-Dec-2017

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VICTORIAN Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie was sworn in yesterday as the minister for sport, regional communications and rural health, but not without her party’s leader Barnaby Joyce first defending her promotion.

Senator McKenzie, also the new deputy leader of the Nationals, has an electoral office in Bendigo and has served in the Senate for six years, but she has had no experience in a ministerial role.

She and fellow ministerial debutant David Littleproud gained seats in cabinet at the expense of Nationals MP Darren Chester who was in charge of infrastructure, a portfolio Mr Joyce picked up in this week’s reshuffle.

Mr Joyce said the party could not accommodate two Victorian MPs in the cabinet, but there was speculation yesterday of an internal party split because of his choices for cabinet.

Ms McKenzie said on her facebook account it was an honour to be named in a cabinet with people who so strongly represent rural and regional Australians.

Liberal MP John McVeigh picked up the portfolio of regional development.

Ms McKenzie’s Victorian colleague Damien Drum, who was based in Bendigo in his state electorate until running for Federal Parliament last year, will be her assistant as deputy party leader.

She will take over from Fiona Nash – who was disqualified from continuing in office under the challenge to citizenship rules – in regional communications, rural health and as deputy leader.

That will give her jurisdiction over funding for the Murray Darling Medical School being proposed by La Trobe University and Charles Sturt University with a campus in Bendigo.

The Rural Doctors Association of Australia yesterday welcomed her appointment.

“Senator McKenzie’s long involvement with rural communities, and advocacy for rural health services, makes her a very worthy appointee as minister for rural health,” association president Adam Coltzau said.

“She has engaged actively with RDAA and its rural doctor members at numerous meetings and events we have organised over many years.

“And she has a strong understanding of the crucial role of rural doctors, the entire rural healthcare team and rural hospitals in underpinning the health and viability of regional, rural and remote communities.

“We also welcome the reinstatement of rural health as a stand-alone portfolio in the federal government, and its inclusion in the federal cabinet with Senator McKenzie as minister.”

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