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Health Minister bristles at COVID committee scrutiny


Health Minister Greg Hunt has claimed parliamentary scrutiny of senior health officials is distracting them from managing the vaccine rollout and broader coronavirus pandemic.

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Hunt has written to the chair of the Senate’s select committee on COVID-19 to raise concerns about the amount of time officials spend preparing and appearing before the inquiry hearings.

“I am concerned that recent demands on the Department of Health are detracting too much from their daily responsibilities,” he wrote to Labor senator Katy Gallagher.

“In particular, two hearings with senior officials in less than two weeks is a significant commitment of time taken away from their focus on the vaccine rollout, which is crucial to the health and prosperity of Australians.”

Hunt urged committee members to concentrate their efforts on upcoming budget estimates hearings in May instead.

Gallagher shot back at the minister on social media.

“Greg Hunt, how about you concentrate on getting staff and residents in aged and disability care vaccinated and stop botching the rollout?” she said.

“Then I won’t have to call officials as often to explain why the rollout is going so appallingly slowly.”

Hunt acknowledged the importance of scrutinising the performance of departments and agencies throughout the pandemic.

But he pointed out officials from the Department of Health had appeared 13 times before the committee, and the government had already responded to almost 2000 questions on notice.

“This is in addition to the many briefings offered to the leader of the opposition and shadow ministers,” he said.

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