Former health minister putsch goes down in flames

Poor old Greg Hunt has certainly played a blinder of epically bad proportions this week, the former health minister having hitched his wagon to another former health minister in Peter Dutton in this week's shenanigans in Canberra and subsequently going down in flames.

At the instigation of yet another former health minister in Tony Abbott, Mr Dutton decided to take it upon himself to challenge Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull this week and in the process pretty much hand the next election to Labor. Like the last one, the next election will largely be swayed by people's concerns over healthcare and how to pay for it.

Mr Hunt, always thought to be a moderate, decided to put his hand up as a deputy to the hard right Mr Dutton and voted both for a spill of the leadership and for Mr Dutton in today's party room. He not only lost on that count but also in the ballot for deputy, where he came in a miserable third with just 16 votes, not far ahead of the informal count.

What will happen with portfolios in the new Morrison government we'll just have to wait and see but for all his alleged promise, it's unlikely Mr Hunt will get another go at the health portfolio. He will not be lamented by Pulse+IT readers: just 21 per cent of you thought he was an effective health minister when we asked you back in June.

The fact that such as divisive and unpopular figure as Mr Dutton, with his history as Australian Doctor's “worst health minister in living memory”, is not the new prime minister will blunt Labor's weaponry slightly, but they've already turned their attack on Mr Morrison for his role as treasurer in allegedly slashing and burning the health budget.

Mr Hunt's tenure as health minister is forgettable. He did manage to take the heat off the Mediscare by rolling back some of the harsher policies introduced by Mr Dutton, such as continuing the freeze of the Medicare rebate and cutting $57 billion from hospital funding over 10 years, but his only claim to fame will be adding new drugs to the PBS and the dodgy “compacts” he signed with the healthcare peak bodies, which did nothing but comprise the peaks and were never worth the paper they were written on.

As to the My Health Record opt-out debacle, we'll have to wait and see. If Mr Morrison decides to leave calling an election for as long as possible – it is due by next May at the latest – then opt-out will continue on its merry train wreck way. The Senate inquiry is sure to unearth a few minor explosions but as the results on our poll from last week show, few Pulse+IT readers think the inquiry will achieve much. 85.5 per cent of you think it will make no difference whatsoever.

If Mr Morrison does call an early election then it would be prudent to postpone the November 15 end date for opting out until a new government is elected. Labor's Catherine King has asked for the opt-out process to be frozen entirely until public concerns are investigated, and she would be well within her rights to put it off indefinitely if and when she becomes the new Minister for Health.

For those who'd like to see the whole project cancelled, however, we're afraid your chances are as good as Tony Abbott's of ever returning to the Lodge.

Mr Hunt's decision to resign as health minister on Wednesday was our top story for the week. Another was the slow progress on the Health Care Homes trial – already on the list of targets for Ms King – and the NSW state opposition's push for a RTPM system based on Victoria's SafeScript should it win government next March.

That brings us to our poll question for the week: Do you think healthcare will be the top federal election issue?

Sign up to our weekend edition to vote or leave your thoughts below.

Our poll last week asked: Will another Senate inquiry into MyHR be useful? Pretty cynical bunch: 14.5 per cent said yes, but a whopping 85.5 per cent said no.

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