Outspoken former deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth, who played a prominent, and sometimes controversial, role during the Covid pandemic has announced an interest in a political career.
“Yeah, absolutely!” Dr Coatsworth confirmed.
It has been long suspected that Dr Coatsworth may pursue a career in politics, but he surprised political observers by suggesting that he would be open to an offer from Labor – or even standing as an independent – in federal politics. Prior to his announcement, it was assumed that Dr Coatsworth would run as a Liberal given his former career.
“I would definitely say that you can’t operate at that high level within government during a major crisis without having some eye towards maybe political office in the future.”
Dr Coatsworth ruled out partaking in this federal election a while ago despite being easy with the cameras and giving frequent press conferences during the pandemic. There have even been discussions about his ‘sex appeal’ although Dr Coatsworth admitted that the Victorian Chief Health Office Brett Sutton appears to have the market cornered on female attention, given that he has more than one calendar.
“He’s got two calendars and many, many women buying quilts with his face on it.”
According to Dr Coatsworth, the media coverage and his continuous work with authorities during the pandemic made a political career seem like the natural progression of his career.
“It just opens it up as an option when it’s never been an option before. It was never going to be on the cards for this election.”
Dr Coatsworth added. “This is the thing about politics. If you’re in your early forties and have a very broad-ranging career, it’s probably going to be the party where you’ve got the most immediate connections that you go into.”
He was made Deputy Chief Health Officer under current Brendan Murphy, who is now the Secretary of the Department of Health and featured in a worldwide trending video when he took the question of ‘what is a woman’ on notice from Senator Alex Antic.
Recently, he has spoken about the post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis that he received shortly before taking on his role as Deputy Chief Health Officer. Dr Coatsworth said that it was a mental health disorder (PTSD) that developed when he was travelling in central Africa as a volunteer for Doctors Without Borders.
“I think everyone has their limits in life. That constant pressure [in the Sudan] for four and a half months – I started to get symptoms.” After he returned to Australia and shortly before his appointment, he said, “It got to the point one weekend when I couldn’t leave the house, I was sitting there bingeing on Nordic Crime Thrillers to deal with it.”
During the pandemic, Dr Coatsworth sometimes found himself at odds with the health orders of state premiers and chief health officers. For example, he rubbished the advice that four Covid vaccine shots would be needed, told parents not to worry if their children could not be vaccinated before returning
to school, argued against vaccine mandates for children under 12, and expressed parental reluctance to have his youngest children vaccinated.
Dr Coatsworth’s prior connection to the Liberal Party had left most assuming that his future in politics would be with the Coalition, although it seems more likely that he will accept an offer from the Labor Party or run as an independent.
“It’s just that, I don’t know anyone on the other side. I couldn’t tell you any more than my connections are strongest within the Liberal Party, but that does not necessarily mean that I would run Liberal, Labor, or Independent in the future? I couldn’t really say.”
When it comes to the handling of the pandemic, Dr Coatsworth hedged his bets with any future political parties by praising most premiers for their behaviour and ‘staying above the fray’. However, Dr Coatsworth was less complimentary about Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews, whom he said was holding onto restrictions for longer than the other. “I don’t agree with that.”
“Ultimately, it’s going to come down tot he people of Victoria as to whether it’s the right thing to do or not.”