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Claims Minister breached the Prime Minister's guidelines over the scan scam.



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Health Minister concedes mistake, under fresh attack  

 

AM - Monday, May 15, 2000 8:24  

 

COMPERE: The Health Minister Michael Wooldridge is under fresh attack, with the Opposition as well as a former backer now accusing of breaching the Prime Minister's guidelines. The minister has admitted that he knew months ago about a mistake in a statement which he tabled in parliament about the so called 'scan scam'. 

 

In Canberra, Mark Willacy reports: 

 

MARK WILLACY: Under the chapter headed parliamentary business, the Prime Minister's guidelines on ministerial responsibility are quite clear ? 'any answer found to be incorrect should be corrected as soon as the error is found using the procedures of the chamber concerned'. 

 

Last Friday it was revealed that a sworn statement tabled by Michael Wooldridge in the Parliament last year contained a fundamental error. The statement is a key plank of the minister's defence against allegations he leaked sensitive budget information to radiologists about Medicare funding in 1998. Unfortunately the statement incorrectly named a radiologist as attending a crucial meeting with the minister. So, why then did Dr Wooldridge fail to correct the record? 

 

MICHAEL WOOLDRIDGE: Well, I must say I think I was told yesterday for the first time about this. 

 

MARK WILLACY: The Health Minister speaking on AM last Friday. 

 

A few hours later Dr Wooldridge said he'd checked his records and discovered that he had been told about the mistake in November. The minister remembers he asked his department to table the correction, but for some reason it didn't. Parliament may now be in recess but Labor says it has Michael Wooldridge on the slow cooker, with the MRI scan scam expected to again be under the spotlight during next week's budget estimates. 

 

Opposition Leader Kim Beazley says it's clear the Health Minister has breached the Prime Minister's guidelines. 

 

KIM BEAZLEY: If he says he stays for one reason only, and that is that John Howard has no standards. 

 

MARK WILLACY: But he says that he told his department to correct the record, to table documents in the parliament. 

 

KIM BEAZLEY: It is ? it is up to him to table the document. He tabled the original document. It is up to the department to table the document. And there's been plenty of time since that point and now of parliamentary sitting days in which Wooldridge could have done it himself. Generally speaking when it's part of a minister's defence he would do it himself. 

 

MARK WILLACY: Even those who've backed Michael Wooldridge in the past are having second thoughts. Independent MP Peter Andren, who voted against Labor's censure motion of Dr Wooldridge last week, says it appears the Prime Minister's guidelines have been breached. 

 

PETER ANDREN: It appears the guidelines haven't been followed in that the discovery of a mistake over this statutory declaration should have been tabled far earlier than this. The minister says he's investigating it. But I wonder why the department was asked to table it and the minister didn't do it as early as last November. 

 

COMPERE: Independent Peter Andren.