Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 5 April 2001
Page: 26594


Mr BEAZLEY (3:09 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Health and Aged Care. Minister, can you give a categorical assurance that you were unaware of the $27 million grant from the US National Institute of Health to that group of Australian scientists prior to 28 June? Can you further give the House a categorical assurance that at the dinner referred to earlier in question time you did not state to any individual there that a group of Australian scientists had won a grant from the United States?


Dr WOOLDRIDGE (Minister for Health and Aged Care) —I can categorically say I was not aware of the consortium, and that is the nature of it. I was not aware of Virax; I was not aware of the companies involved. But, if you want to know about the speculation around this, I suggest you have a look at the newspapers. On 13 May, about six weeks before the announcement, the Daily Telegraph, page 7, or the Canberra Times, 13 May, page 4, `HIV treatment trial'—



Mr SPEAKER —The member for Dobell!


Dr WOOLDRIDGE —it was reported in both newspapers. And it was reported by the University of New South Wales. I will read it:

200 Australians would take part in a $74 million international trial for a new HIV treatment.

There it is in the Daily Telegraph.


Mr Lee —Point of order!


Mr Beazley —Mr Speaker, I have a point of order that goes to relevance. The minister has been asked—


Mr SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition—



Mr SPEAKER —The member for Dobell is warned! The Leader of the Opposition had at no stage been recognised by the chair. Furthermore, the call of a point of order came not from the Leader of the Opposition but from the member for Dobell prior to my warning him for an intervention at a later stage. The Leader of the Opposition has indicated that he had a point of order on relevance, and I can indicate to the House that the Leader of the Opposition is well aware that the only obligation I have is to determine whether or not the answer is relevant to the question asked. I deem that the minister's answer is relevant to the question.


Mr Beazley —Mr Speaker, the standing order states quite clearly that when somebody raises a point of order they state it. I have not had an opportunity to state the point of order, Mr Speaker, on the question of relevance. He has been asked a set of categorical questions—


Mr SPEAKER —No, the Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.



Mr SPEAKER —The Leader of the House! I have deemed an answer by the minister relevant, and I gathered he was in fact concluding his answer.


Dr WOOLDRIDGE —I am still going, Mr Speaker. That was the first point. The second point is that I said earlier in question time that I had mentioned the NIH and partnerships but nothing about a consortium and nothing about what the nature of it was. And do you know why I was doing that, Mr Speaker? Because I wanted to tell 700 scientists how inspirational we were with medical research doubling the funding and how pathetic you were as finance minister—the finance minister that was on the public record as saying it wouldn't matter how much you gave them they would still whinge!

Honourable members interjecting


Mr SPEAKER —The minister will resume his seat.

Honourable members interjecting


Mr SPEAKER —The member for La Trobe! The member for Makin!


Mrs Irwin —What about the grant?


Mr Crean —He doesn't mention the agreement. A categoric denial.


Mr SPEAKER —I had presumed the minister had concluded his answer, and in fact—


Mr Beazley —We are still to hear about the grant.


Mr SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition! And in fact the latter part—



Mr SPEAKER —The member for Fowler! I had made a reasonable presumption that the minister had concluded—


Mrs Irwin —Ha, ha!


Mr SPEAKER —The member for Fowler is warned! I had made a reasonable presumption that the minister had concluded his answer because the latter part of his answer bore no relevance to the question. If the minister has additional material to offer, he may offer it, but it must be relevant to the question asked.


Dr WOOLDRIDGE —Thank you, Mr Speaker. The third point I make, because it is relevant to who knew, the opposition was asserting earlier in question time that I had stated yesterday in the Hansard that my staff did not know until the 28th. If you have a look at Hansard, clearly I did not say that. My staff obviously had to know to put together a press release. The Labor Party is misrepresenting it for its own circumstances—and, boy, hasn't question time been a fizzer for you, Sport!