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Monday, 6 December 1999
Page: 12821

Dr WOOLDRIDGE (Health and Aged Care) (3:19 PM) —Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.

Mr SPEAKER —Does the minister claim to have been misrepresented?


Mr SPEAKER —The minister may proceed.

Dr WOOLDRIDGE —Thank you. An article on Saturday in the Sydney Morning Herald by journalist Marian Wilkinson entitled `Bitter pill' makes 10 separate errors of fact as it relates to me, the first in talking about legal action by the Pfizer corporation. The article states:

The Pfizer call was a major signal to the Health Minister.

I am doing these sequentially, not in order of seriousness. This statement is incorrect; it was no signal whatsoever. The second error is that the article refers to my `key staff pharmaceutical adviser' going to work for Pfizer. I have never had a pharmaceutical adviser. I had a medical adviser who came from medical administration in Royal Adelaide Hospital. As I have no day-to-day responsibility for pharmaceuticals, I have never needed a pharmaceutical adviser. The third and fourth errors are in the following sentence of the article:

This week, Wooldridge's office finally admitted he was considering a major review of the PBS . . .

There are two inaccuracies here. The first is that, when a major review of the PBS was put to me, I dismissed it out of hand, so I have not been considering it. The second is that the sentence construction `finally admitted' suggests that we have been suggesting that it is not the case, and that is untrue. The fifth error is that the article states:

. . . the PBAC itself has sought over the years to make the process more transparent, only to be told by the Government that the act requires it to keep commercial material in confidence.

This is misleading. My department informs me it is in fact the industry itself—

Mr SPEAKER —The minister has not been personally misrepresented in that instance, but he may proceed.

Dr WOOLDRIDGE —Thank you. The sixth and seventh error are that the article states:

Wooldridge's more open approach to industry appears to have begun before the last election when . . . the Government established the Pharmaceutical Industry Working Group . . .

The sixth error is that it was actually John Moore as industry minister who established the Pharmaceutical Industry Working Group, not me. The seventh is that my approach to industry has not changed at all in the four years I have been health minister. The eighth error is that the article states:

Most of the big drug companies held joint fundraisers for . . . Wooldridge . . .

I wish they had, but I am not aware of any major drug company holding a fundraiser for me. The ninth error is that the article states:

The Naltrexone case opened the way for other drug company executives to put their complaints to Wooldridge's office . . .

My chief of staff tells me that the Naltrexone case has made no difference whatsoever. The 10th error is that the article states:

. . . health officials learnt that Wooldridge was examining, with the Minister for Industry, Nick Minchin, a major review of the scheme . . .

This is not correct. As I have stated before, we are not seeking a major review of the scheme, rather a technical review of listing and pricing.