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Wednesday, 22 August 2001
Page: 29969

Dr WASHER (2:32 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Health and Aged Care. Would the minister inform the House of any further allegations regarding treatment available in accident and emergency departments in public hospitals in Perth? Minister, how recent are these allegations?

Dr WOOLDRIDGE (Minister for Health and Aged Care) —I thank the honourable member for his question. There is one further allegation, and it concerns how often these allegations have indeed been made. On AM this morning, in trying to defend taking a cheap political point over a fictitious and trumped up situation in the accident and emergency department, the Leader of the Opposition attempted to defend himself with the following words:

Look, I'm not in the business here—and this is the first time I've said anything about this publicly.

But he went on—he said more. He said:

... let's get that absolutely clear. This is the first time I've said it.

So we have the Leader of the Opposition in trouble on ABC radio this morning, under very substantial pressure for having gilded the situation and having said that his daughter was turned away from treatment when, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. So what does the Leader of the Opposition do when he is under pressure for having fibbed the previous day? He says, `Look, I've never raised this before. Let me make that absolutely clear. I've never raised that before.' But he has a problem with that. That problem is what happened at Merimbula. A month before, in Merimbula, the Leader of the Opposition addressed a policy forum of 150 of his closest friends, and two people independently—one a local journalist, Donald Kerr—have come forward and said that they very clearly remember Mr Beazley making these allegations at that meeting.

Opposition members—So what?

Dr WOOLDRIDGE —The opposition ask, `So what?' I will tell you so what: the Leader of the Opposition, when under pressure over having said something that was clearly not accurate, chose again to try to justify his situation by saying the first thing that came into his mind, which was, itself, clearly and demonstrably inaccurate. This is an issue of character. This is an issue that goes to the heart of the fitness of this man to even be the Leader of the Opposition. The fact is that this man will lie and say anything that suits him to get himself out of trouble. Because of that, Mr Speaker, I seek leave to censure the Leader of the Opposition.

Honourable members interjecting—

Mr SPEAKER —The House will come to order! If members wish, I will simply issue a general warning. I have not done so, but I will do so if that sort of behaviour is repeated.

Leave granted.