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Thursday, 11 May 2000
Page: 16316

Mr SPEAKER —I call the honourable member for Jagajaga.

Mr Ross Cameron —No speeches.

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Parramatta is warned!

Mr Albanese —We want more from you.

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Grayndler!

Ms MACKLIN (3:11 PM) —Mr Speaker, my question is addressed to the Minister for Health and Aged Care. Minister, do you recall telling this House on 11 February last year that, `The first thing I will say is that there is no evidence that all these machines were ordered in the weeks before the budget. You are quite wrong there. There is no evidence. They were ordered over the previous 12 months'? Doesn't the Auditor-General's report find that there was in fact a surge of orders for MRI machines prior to the budget, with 33 machines being ordered in the four working days between your meeting with the radiologists and budget night? Minister, don't these facts prove that your statement to this House on 11 February was false? Wasn't this just the start of your failed attempt to cover up your role in the MRI scan scam?

Dr WOOLDRIDGE (Minister for Health and Aged Care) —I thank the honourable member for her not totally unexpected question. It is true that the Auditor-General's report has shown that.

Mr Albanese —Just resign.

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Grayndler is warned!

Dr WOOLDRIDGE —But 15 months ago, on 11 February, on the best evidence we had, there was no evidence that they had all been ordered. The Health Insurance Commission investigation is something that is separate from the minister and I was not given regular bulletins on it. So it was a correct statement at the time. Clearly, there were a large number of machines ordered and the Auditor-General gives a plausible explanation for that. The Auditor-General has spent six months doing a very thorough report. He has interviewed 135 people under oath or affirmation. He has had access to all departmental documents. He has had the full cooperation of me and my staff and he has found no impropriety on my behalf, he has found no evidence of negligence on my behalf and he has in fact found no evidence of a budget leak. Not a single person who gave evidence under oath has said there was a budget leak. This confirms what I have been saying all along. If you wish to go to the specific paragraphs in his report, as I am sure we will as we debate this further, the fact is that six months of investigation by the Auditor-General has come up with no leak whatsoever.