Health minister walks plank – chance for harm reduction progress?

Australia’s federal health minister Sussan Ley finally got what she wanted after changing the spelling of her name. Though maybe having to resign in disgrace is really more ‘excitement’ than she craved.

Many years ago the former punk and trained accountant added a spare ‘s’ to her name after discovering a numerology theory claiming it would bring her an exciting and interesting life.

She has consistently failed to find the important public health issue of tobacco harm reduction sufficiently interesting, however, repeatedly passing the buck on the question of reforming vaping legislation to deputy minister David Gillespie, a dour Catholic conservative who is at least a doctor.

After a week of trying to ride out a scandal over her expenses – including multiple trips to Queensland with her partner to view and eventually “impulse-buy” a $800,000 apartment, all charged up to taxpayers – Ley finally fell on her sword on Friday the 13th after receiving scant support from the front bench.

The health portfolio is in the temporary charge of Arthur Sinodinos, another of many politicians with form in such areas, having been stood down from his ministerial duties during an investigation by the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption and only reinstated after the ascension to prime minister of Malcolm Turnbull.

Ley had been health minister since December 2014. It is assumed she will remain in her constituency of Farrer, a rural area of southwest New South Wales almost the same size as England but with fewer than 120,000 voters.

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