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Thursday, 2 April 1998
Page: 2391

Mr LEE —My question again is addressed to the Prime Minister. Did the Prime Minister receive a letter from the member for Gilmore, Joanna Gash, dated 15 November 1996, requesting that as a matter of urgency he review the decision to abolish federal funding for dental care? Did the letter state:

Prime Minister, as you would understand, people do not stomach cuts to basic health needs particularly well. Indeed, they are outraged at our insensitivity, and I have a lot of trouble defending the decision to abolish the scheme?

Did the letter from the member for Gilmore go on to state—

Mr Ross Cameron —Mr Speaker, I have a point of order, although I do not doubt that the Prime Minister is happy to respond. I rely on standing order 142 and, in particular, page 510 of the House of Representatives Practice , which suggests that questions referring to the attitude, behaviour or actions of a member of parliament or the staff of members are out of order. Mr Speaker, the question relies entirely on an issue of that nature and I ask you to rule it out of order.

Mr SPEAKER —The question is in order, but I think the honourable member for Dobell needs to have in mind the constraints of the standing orders in proposing it.

Mr LEE —Thank you, Mr Speaker. Did the letter to the Prime Minister also state:

People needing tooth extraction are being turned away each morning in agony because they can't be seen. Surely we can't stand back and watch a disaster unfold?

Prime Minister, do you intend to stand back as the disaster unfolds, or will you now concede that your dental cuts are causing real pain?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I get a lot of letters and I will check whether I got such a letter.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr SPEAKER —Questions without notice will continue when opposition members resume their silence.