Federal Politics

Katy Gallagher the next Shadow Health Minister?

Katy Gallagher is a strong contender to break into Bill Shorten's frontbench team and is well positioned to fill one of many roles in the health portfolio.

Katy Gallagher.
Katy Gallagher. Photo: Karleen Minney

Ms Gallagher, Australia's longest serving health minister, has been given "no guarantees" about a frontbench spot from Mr Shorten.

But observers say she comes with unmatched head-of-government experience and years in the health portfolio and did not want the move to mean she had less of an impact. 

"She's a remarkable person. Whatever Katy does, she's good at it," Mr Shorten said. 

"She's led the ACT well. I'm really pleased she's chosen to put her hand up.


"I think if she gets through the local process, and it's important we give our local members a say in preselection, but if Katy was successful, which I suspect she probably will be because she's such a distinguished candidate, (then) she's a great addition to our Senate team.

"I think it reflects well on Katy that she's willing to give up being Chief Minister. I also take this as a sign of confidence that people want to be in the federal Labor team I lead because we have the plans for the future of Australia."

At a press conference Ms Gallagher said she had not sought a frontbench job and had not been "seeking or demanding or putting my fist on the table"  but at the same time said she did "not want to be hanging on the back doing nothing".

In recent weeks Labor sources said if Ms Gallagher did run for the Senate she would need to know she could make more of a difference than the considerable power she had in the Legislative Assembly, which on Friday she conceded would be tough to give up. 

Ms Gallagher told a press conference she had remained a health minister for eight years while other state, territory federal ministers in the same area seemed to have "a limited life expectancy".

"Health is a passion of mine. When I think about where I think I've contributed or things I'm most proud of it's health," she said. 

The Abbott government and Health Minister Peter Dutton have been under intense pressure over the GP co-payment fiasco.

Former ACT Liberal Senator and ACT Chief Minister Gary Humphries said Ms Gallagher would be groomed for a ministerial job early because she was the only member of the Labor caucus with head-of-government experience.

"Where previously you had Bob Carr, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. Those things are taken very seriously on the hill," Mr Humphries said.

Labor has several jobs in the health portfolio comprising of Shadow Health Minister Catherine King, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Health Nick Champion, Shadow Assistant Minister for Health Stephen Jones and Shadow Mental Health Minister Jan McLucas. 

Labor Senator Kate Lundy, who is vacating her senate seat in early 2015, pointed to her likely replacement's broad experience across portfolios such as Treasurer from 2008 to 2011. 

Canberra MP Gai Brodtmann said she was delighted at the news Ms Gallagher wanted to be in the Senate.

"As an MLA, Minister, Deputy Chief Minister then Chief Minister, Katy has demonstrated she is a strong and passionate leader and advocate for our city," Ms Brodtmann said.

"As we prepare to lose the skills and experience of the accomplished Senator Lundy, I believe Katy replacing her as Senator for the ACT is the best possible outcome for Canberra."

- with Scott Hannaford