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Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee
Use of the quinoline antimalarial drugs mefloquine and tafenoquine in the Australian Defence Force

McCARTHY, Mr Brian, Private capacity

McCARTHY, Mr Stuart, Private capacity

CHAIR: We will now resume the hearing and welcome Brian and Stuart McCarthy. Thank you both for your time. Information on parliamentary privilege and the protection of witnesses and evidence has been provided to you. Do you have any comments on the capacity in which you appear?

Mr B McCarthy : I'm the parent of a veteran who has been impacted by tafenoquine and mefloquine.

Mr S McCarthy : I'm particularly here in support of Brian.

CHAIR: Thank you. Mr McCarthy, would you like to make a brief opening statement before we go to questions?

Mr B McCarthy : I have a written statement in front of me, which you also have in front of you, and it will take me approximately six minutes to work through it. But before I do that, I want to make a statement related to some evidence that was presented earlier today. I need to mention that a previous witness, Mr Reid, omitted to declare an additional interest which he has. He was also one of the investigators in the Army Malaria Institute's study of mefloquine and doxycycline in East Timor from 2001 to 2002, involving 4RAR and 2RAR. I just wanted to put that on the record.

CHAIR: Okay, it's on the record, and we'll give Mr Reid the opportunity to reply to that in the normal course of events when the Hansard is produced.

Mr Reid's response has been published as supplementary submission 71.2 on the committee's website.

Mr B McCarthy : I'm very grateful that the committee accepted my request to appear as a witness today. Thank you very, very sincerely. It is important for me to ask you, Senator Gallacher, to take a message back to Lyn Beverley, the committee secretary. The support, consideration and information which I've had from Lyn and her team have been excellent in every respect, and that continued today through the help which I've had from Anna. Please convey my thanks to the whole secretariat team, and the thanks of many veterans who have also had outstanding assistance.

This opening statement will take approximately six minutes of my allocated time, and I provided copies, as I expect that you'll want to ask questions related to it in addition to questions related to my submissions.

I have several qualifications which entitle me to make a submission and to appear as a witness. The most significant of these is that I am the father of a veteran who has had to endure the double whammy of having been given mefloquine and tafenoquine during deployments. It soon became very evident that in supporting Stuart in whatever ways possible I would be supporting many hundreds of my son's mefloquine and tafenoquine contemporary veterans and colleagues. Stuart's mother, Lee, has stood right alongside me in very tangible ways in providing that support also. We are Stuart's very, very proud parents.

I'm an executive member of the Quinoline Veterans and Families Association and I contribute to the Australian Mefloquine and Tafenoquine Veterans membership website. Consequently, I read on a daily basis about the extreme adversity faced by mefloquine and tafenoquine veterans and their families.

There's a third reason for my presence here today. Although I appear to be calm outwards, I'm angry. I am very angry. And it's important for the committee members to know why I am so angry. Basically, it should not have been necessary for me to have made the allegations, which you will have read about in my submission and the 11 attachments, that I made several weeks ago. Those allegations were very serious. I refer to just one of the reasons why I'm so angry. Attachment No. 1 in my submission provides evidence that the ADF used mefloquine as a prophylaxis four years before this use was approved by the TGA. The VCDF made this statement to a Senate estimates committee hearing, and it's possible that some of you here today might well have been in that committee hearing. The same statement substantiates that mefloquine was used as a first choice antimalarial, yet the ADF and the Minister for Defence continue to deny the matter of first choice. When will the ADF become transparent?

I've substantiated in my submission that I've been treated with complete disdain by very senior members of the ADF, senior members of the DVA and government ministers. Being treated with disdain is certainly a good reason to be angry. Some of those people who are treating me with disdain are your political contemporaries. And this has been in response to my very genuine attempts to bring about justice for so many veterans who are so ill through no fault of their own.

I've read all the submissions to this inquiry which have been published on the inquiry website and I have reread repeatedly the submissions made by mefloquine and tafenoquine veterans and their family members. There is one very common and persistent factor which permeates these submissions. Those submissions which were written by veterans and their families and which were published have two common threads. The first thread is that they are very real statements of very specific personal experiences. The second thread is that these submissions represent a very real and from the heart call for help, which has not yet been appropriately recognised and responded to by the ADF, the DVA and the government.

It is important that I acknowledge the endeavour of several people and several groups who have contributed persistently, openly, transparently and professionally to the needs of mefloquine and tafenoquine veterans. The first is Professor Jane Quinn. Jane's professional and tertiary background are well-known to this committee. She has made substantial submissions, and you will meet with her in Canberra in two weeks time. Jane's knowledge and experience of mefloquine and tafenoquine is exemplary, and Jane is without peer in Australia. Jane has been a driving force in promoting the needs of mefloquine and tafenoquine veterans and their families. Jane has written many documents, attended many meetings, written submissions to Senate inquiries and appeared as a witness to Senate inquiries. She has remained undaunted in her endeavour to bring about justice for mefloquine and tafenoquine veterans and their families.

The second is Major Stuart McCarthy, now medically discharged. I've acknowledged that Stuart is my son. You met with Stuart this morning. Lee and I very proud that, despite so much adversity from the ADF, Stuart has not been prepared to lie down. His strength of character is such that he is held in great esteem by his mefloquine and tafenoquine veteran colleagues, some of whom are here today. Even as a boy, Stuart had developed an intense understanding of right and wrong, and fair and unfair. This is what drives him with the mefloquine and tafenoquine issues. He has said to me regularly, 'This is not about me, Dad.'

Stuart's research is substantial and comprehensive. His writings have been published in international medical scientific magazines. He has attended many meetings, produced many quality documents and contributed to numerous high-profile meetings. Stuart's firsthand experience, knowledge and understanding of quinoline drugs is very substantial by any professional standards. Three years ago, after he'd been posted, when he was so seriously ill, unable to work and very alone, Stuart wrote in an email to me, 'Dad, things are pretty shit right now, but I'm doing the best I can.' You met with Stuart this morning. He's still doing the best he can for his mefloquine and tafenoquine veterans, colleagues and families.

The executive committee of the QVFA is a dedicated and committed group of men and women. The admin team of the Australian Mefloquine and Tafenoquine Veterans group is equally dedicated and committed, and, through its membership website, has drawn together an extraordinary group of mefloquine and tafenoquine veterans and their families. I acknowledge every veteran and family member of veterans who made submissions to this inquiry. We're here now as a result of the endeavours of all those people of whom I've just made mention.

Please take very serious note of what I'm about to say; I really need your undivided attention. I've alleged in my submissions that Defence has continuously misled Australia about its use of mefloquine and tafenoquine. Here is the key point which I want you to grasp hold of and hang onto until the time comes when you've completed your recommendations: Defence has continued to mislead right up to 18 July 2018, which is the date of Defence's submission to this inquiry.

I've read Defence's submission very closely on six separate occasions. The whole submission misleads us to believe that Defence has been close to perfect in the way it has managed its use of antimalarial medication—or, to put it another way, Defence has never had any issues or concerns with the ways in which it has managed antimalarial medication. How is it possible that an organisation as large as Defence could provide antimalarial medication at home and around the world and participate in trials for more than two decades without experiencing setbacks, without significant errors being made or even just misadventure, without problems occurring in any way to which the ADF will admit, and without the health of veterans being seriously and permanently impacted from a variety of causes related to the side effects of drugs administered by the ADF? This is not plausible.

The submissions of veterans to this inquiry open the real doors of transparency. Yet Defence has been arrogant enough in its misleading submission to this inquiry to expect us to believe that, across more than two decades, it has been totally guiltless and completely perfect in the ways it has managed antimalarial medication. Again, this is not plausible.

I have a challenge for you: before the day is out, please read Defence's submission again with the most open minds that you can muster, and then call me to appear in front of you for a second time to debate this allegation of being misled. Please accept and respond to this challenge. If necessary, I will travel in order to have quality time with you to demonstrate just how very misleading Defence has been in its submission. I note that, in his supplementary submission, Colin McIntosh has taken up this matter. What Colin has written is very accurate, but it's only the beginning of a massive tsunami of disbelief from the mefloquine and tafenoquine veteran community.

I note that the SG ADF has made a written apology to a veteran concerning antimalarial drugs. This certainly represents a hypocrisy when compared with Defence's submission, which is certainly not apologetic to veterans in its content. No organisation is as good as Defence would have us believe through the arrogant and totally misleading submission which it has presented to you—and now to Australians, because the submission is on the public record. Defence's submission is not signed or attributed. Who takes the responsibility? Who is directing the propensity of Defence to continue to mislead? The question to ask is very simple: how would the author or authors of Defence's submission cope with the scrutiny, under oath, of a royal commission?

Finally, do not miss the opportunity to be open, transparent and bipartisan in how you form your recommendations. Quite simply, your recommendations will have the capacity to identify and expose criminal negligence perpetrated for so long by those who have administered antimalarial drugs throughout the ADF. I have identified some of those perpetrators in my submissions. A royal commission will ensure that criminal negligence will be exposed, substantiated, tested and proven and that referrals are made for prosecution. This Senate inquiry can bring this overall mess and a very long period of denial, deceit and covering up by Defence to an end. When you do bring this mess to an end, the gratitude of veterans across Australia and their families will be overwhelmingly positive.

I have an expectation that, shortly after your recommendations are made public, the Prime Minister will stand alongside the Minister for Defence, Jane Quinn and Stuart McCarthy in a public forum and acknowledge that the ADF and the AMI have made many negligent mistakes in the ways in which they have administered antimalarial medications, that their accountability has been identified and actioned and that the government will adopt immediately, without reservation or conditions, every recommendation made by this Senate committee, including that for a royal commission. Such a public declaration would be the beginning of the new, open and totally transparent way ahead for the health care of quinoline veterans. Veterans groups and governments around the world are watching and waiting for the leadership that will be provided by the recommendations you will make; recommendations to bring an end to so much adversity, injustice and permanent serious health for Australian veterans.

CHAIR: Thank you, Mr McCarthy. The evidence we're hearing is falling into two discrete areas. One is the call for a royal commission and the evidence that underpins that, and the other is the treatment acknowledgement and suffering of people as we speak. I'm looking at a letter signed by Mr Tehan, dated 15 September 2016:

The Government will:

establish a formal community consultation mechanism to provide an open dialogue on issues concerning mefloquine between the Defence Links Committee and the serving and ex-serving ADF community …

Are you in a position to shed any light on whether that is an ongoing activity as we speak?

Mr B McCarthy : Senator, I've apologised to you in advance for my hearing issues. I'm sorry—it was a long question—but I would be grateful if you could repeat the question for me, please.

CHAIR: Mr Tehan, as the minister, wrote on 15 September 2016:

The Government will:

establish a formal community consultation mechanism to provide an open dialogue on issues concerning mefloquine between the Defence Links Committee and the serving and ex-serving ADF community …

Are you aware of that formal mechanism?

Mr B McCarthy : I'm aware of the content of that document that you have in front of you. I'm not aware that anything has happened.

Mr S McCarthy : I can answer that, if that's okay. We were excluded from those meetings. The problem is that it was a political announcement. The Defence DVA Links committee has regular meetings between those two departments and, periodically, they will invite other people to be involved in the meetings, but—

CHAIR: So serving and ex-serving, and you're saying clearly—

Mr S McCarthy : We were excluded.

CHAIR: you were excluded. All right. That's something we can get our teeth into. 'Develop a more comprehensive online resource that will provide information on antimalarial medications.' Has that happened, to your knowledge?

Mr S McCarthy : It has happened, but, again, I reinforce that much of the information is misleading. That's the main concern there.

CHAIR: 'Establish a dedicated DVA mefloquine support team to assist our serving and ex-serving ADF community with mefloquine related claims, which will provide a specialised point of contact with DVA.' Has that happened?

Mr S McCarthy : One of the previous witnesses gave you a good example of how that occurs in practice. My understanding is that there is no dedicated team. I've previously—in fact, even when that announcement was first made—called that number. That team did not exist at that point. It's been sometime since I've spoken to them, but what I can tell you is that the individuals, both in my experience and in the experience of other people I've spoken to, just don't know what they're talking about.

Mr B McCarthy : I've written in my submission that I also called that inquiry line and became very frustrated, even though I was extremely patient through the process. It was not difficult for me to determine that, despite what the minister had said, no dedicated access line was at that time in place. I can also state very clearly that numerous veterans have said to me very specifically that they made the same phone call in that period of time and got the same response, to the point that, at that time, across a two- or three-week period, there was no dedicated phone service available. The phone number used was the general inquiry line, and we had to work our way through the prompts.

CHAIR: Okay. I'm just trying to get it on the public record. These are commitments made by a minister. We need to know how they are operating in practice, from your perspective. The last one was 'direct the interdepartmental DVA-Defence Links Committee to examine the issues raised, consider existing relevant medical evidence and provide advice to the government by November 2016.' Is anybody aware of that actually happening?

Mr S McCarthy : Because we were excluded, I have no idea what—

CHAIR: One of the things the committee can do is, from the evidence and the submissions that have been brought to it, provide an interim report. That is a lot more beneficial, we find, than waiting for the conclusion of hearings and the availability of other senators to give us quorum and the like. If we can get an agreed interim report, it's something on the way. We will be certainly taking that up with the department.

Senator MOORE: Mr McCarthy, what do you mean by being 'excluded'?

Mr S McCarthy : That announcement from Mr Tehan was made during the lead-up to the previous election. It appears that that was in response to some lobbying that was done by a lot of people, not just me. When I read it, I was quite positive. I said, 'There's some progress here.' Then I started to make inquiries and ring people up: 'How do we get involved in this meeting?' I was told that that committee that they're referring to is an internal government committee between two departments, which is a complete fiction, sadly.

CHAIR: One of the things that the committee can do is look at urgent, pressing evidence that's before us now that appears to be not acted upon consistent with the minister's advice. We can certainly direct the Department of Defence and DVA to commitments the minister has made if they are not being honoured. I'm trying to get the committee on a useful path here. To be perfectly frank, the issue of a royal commission will be a political decision by whoever's in government. That's the way it always operates. Whether this committee recommends it or not will be problematic, given that two current members of the committee have just been promoted to Assistant Minister for Home Affairs and Assistant Minister for Defence. The parliamentary process to fill the vacancies hasn't come along so, for all the great intents of this reference, we're almost hamstrung from permanent members. We had a stand-in senator today, Senator O'Sullivan, who I must say has promptly contacted the minister and sought to get some activity going straightaway. We've got to do what we can immediately and then we've got to await the process to fill the committee spots.

Mr S McCarthy : I've got a suggestion, I think, that would cut right to the chase—that is, the purpose in Mr Tehan's mind at that point I think was excellent: to get a mechanism where we could meet, thrash these issues out and get things done. Quite simply, we could meet with Mr Chester as soon as possible, and all of those issues that we've raised in the submissions we could present in the most thorough practical—I completely accept that the issue of a royal commission is totally beyond one individual minister to consider. That's not even on my agenda with Mr Tehan.

Mr B McCarthy : The basis of really why I'm here is: since I began this journey with Stuart 3½ to four years ago, I've always striven to try and draw out the truth and the facts. And, for too long, I've been denied the truth and the facts. I'm not going to give up trying because it's very important that someone in high places—or some people in high places—sooner or later, by whatever process, is simply going to start being honest, straightforward and transparent and give some of us the basic simple answers that we need.

On a bit of a tangent, I have sympathy for you and your contemporaries when you're sitting in Senate estimates committees because I think it would be very difficult when taking witness statements to have a process whereby you could determine what is fact, what is the truth and what is misleading. So I do have sympathy for many of you when you sit in those committee meetings—it would not be easy. I do have a question: do you have a process for trying to determine what's fact and what's misleading?

CHAIR: We take submissions, we question the submissions, we review the Hansard and we have a very experienced and professional secretariat that looks to draft recommendations underpinned by evidence taken—evidence tested after it's been taken. Then the committee then deliberates the chair's draft. People make amendments. People make suggestions, but I haven't produced a report, and I'm sure Senator Moore has never produced a report, that wasn't underpinned by evidence and conclusions made from the evidence given.

Senator MOORE: Mr McCarthy, you talk about being transparent and open. Sometimes people just don't agree: what you say another person may not agree with. I'm interested to know—because you've challenged us with: what are we going to do to find the truth?—how do you actually accept truth?

Mr B McCarthy : Senator, that's the best question I've been asked for a long, long time, so thank you. The fact that I don't agree with something that a minister has written to me, or that the Chief of Army has written to me, is not my disagreement because I want to disagree; it's because I believe I have different facts in front of me. So my disagreements are based on what I perceive to be the facts, not because I just want to get up and wave the flag for the sake of waving the flag. So, in answer your question, my ability to disagree, or my potential to disagree, is based on what I believe are the substantiated facts.

Senator MOORE: Which are?

Mr B McCarthy : They're all in my submission.

Senator MOORE: I've read your submission a few times—not six times as you've said you've read the Defence one, but I've read it a couple of times. We've got a few minutes—would you like to go through a couple of them?

Mr S McCarthy : Can I just give a specific answer to your question. In my submission, one of the attachments—I don't have it here—goes straight to that question. That is, when Mr Tehan rejected our proposal for an outreach program, I wanted to understand why. I made an FOI request for the briefing material that the minister was provided so I could understand how he could have made that decision. We received a reply to that FOI request. It's an attachment to my submission, and it's four black pages. How transparent—it's just absurd; it's just not transparent at all.

Mr B McCarthy : I have a simple response to your question: I have repeatedly requested the Minister for Defence to acknowledge the fact that mefloquine has been used as a first-choice antimalarial. The evidence is that it has been. The evidence is substantial, but I can't get the minister to accept the fact that by whatever process—misadventure, bad planning or whatever—it has been used as a first-choice antimalarial. I've used that repeatedly, because I believe that, if I can draw the truth out of that, that might open the door to other substantiated truths. So that's pretty much the thrust of a lot of what I've said in my submission. If we can come to an agreement that a fact is a fact, an apology would be great. An explanation would be great. But no: 'It's never been used as a first-choice antimalarial.' It's just not the truth, and I can't get anybody to say that, despite the fact that many veterans have gone very public in some of their submissions and said, 'Yes, I was given it as a first-choice antimalarial.'

Senator MOORE: I'm interested in the FOI process. Everyone has different experiences with FOI, but with an FOI request there needs to be an explanation of why things have been redacted. You have shown me that, and it's a beautiful piece of photocopying. But, when you got that FOI response back, what was the accompanying explanation from the department that said why that had been redacted?

Mr S McCarthy : I do understand FOI law. With that particular one, they did explain, in accordance with the FOI Act, the reasons.

Senator MOORE: With some of our evidence there's the same thing: you're reading a paragraph, and then suddenly four lines are redacted.

Mr S McCarthy : I'm not taking issue with whether or not they're legally entitled to redact the document. It's just that you made that point about transparency. What could possibly be a national secret about drug trials that we already know took place? It just seems completely absurd to me. To answer your question, technically the individuals making those decisions might be complying with the law. I spent 28 years in the Army and I know what classified information is, and I understand why there's a need for that information to be classified. But, when you see a document in relation to an issue that's already in the public domain and that occurred 20 years ago, it's very clear to me that that process is being abused by staff from that department. It's almost like it's there to protect the minister from political controversy. That's what I read into the way that the FOI process is being used.

Mr B McCarthy : Minister Payne eventually got tired of my correspondence and referred my last two pieces of correspondence to Minister Chester, whose chief of staff wrote to me. In my response to the chief of staff, I asked the very leading question that Stuart just referred to about what was so secret about that FOI request that couldn't be made public. I don't have the date in front of me, but my request letter to Minister Chester was six or seven weeks ago, and I haven't even had the courtesy of an acknowledgement or a reply. So I'm still looking for the transparency. If Minister Chester had written back and said, 'It's not within our process to be able to declare that,' I would accept that, but having no answer continues to cloud the transparency issues.

Senator MOORE: That leads to the statement you made this morning, Mr Stuart McCarthy, that you've lost faith in any of the institutional responses.

Mr B McCarthy : I will be very blunt in responding to that. I've lost faith in Minister Payne, in Minister Chester, in the Chief of the Defence Force—who was the previous Chief of Army—and now in a couple of chiefs of staff, because they don't even give me the courtesy of saying, 'Sorry, we can't reply to that; it's just not available to you.' As a professional person with a long career in teaching, I find that quite appalling. I've got a couple of questions here which I'm going to choose not to ask, because I don't want to put professional political type pressure on you, but I am just beside myself with the fact that I go to the trouble of seeking credible, worthwhile information which should be transparent and I'm constantly and totally denied, with no response whatsoever. Just to give you an example of how things can be done, I went to the trouble of writing to Lyn Beverley two or three days ago—a handwritten letter—to thank her for what she and her team are doing for you and for us. That's what I think about communication. It should be a two-way thing. And deciding not to respond to Brian McCarthy because he's too hard is just not good enough.

Senator MOORE: Mr Stuart McCarthy, you talked about the issue that you were stimulated to ask the minister: why the outreach program? That has been discussed a number of times here, and my understanding is that there has been some movement in that space about contacting everyone who was known to have been part of a trial, which is one of the things you've been asking for all the way through. You asked a particular question as to what was the reason for that decision.

Mr S McCarthy : Yes

Senator MOORE: And that was what you got back.

Mr S McCarthy : Exactly.

Senator MOORE: I can understand that. One of the confusing issues for people who are not medical, and I'm certainly not, is the degree of scientific evidence that we've been wading through in this space—some of them are your papers. In terms of the process, we are pointed to what's happening overseas. There have been a number of inquiries in the number of countries, all of whom had military forces involved. There has been a mixed response in other countries, and the kind of response that you're asking for from the Australian government, in terms of what happened and future action, is a path that to the best of my understanding no other nation has gone down.

Mr S McCarthy : It's very mixed. It would take me a long time to give you a decent answer, but what I would say is that probably the best person in the world to ask that question of is Professor Jane Quinn.

Senator MOORE: We'll be speaking with her at another time.

Mr S McCarthy : That's correct—in two weeks time, or thereabouts. Professor Quinn not only has the academic expertise in neurotoxicology and neuroscience but she has an encyclopedic understanding of what has and has not been done in numerous countries in response to that issue. The other thing that I would say in reply to that question is that, for example, some of the people I speak to in Canada, and I speak to them very regularly, were involved in a clinical trial of mefloquine in 1992-93. That was before the drug was registered. Our experiences—being involved in clinical trials—are eerily similar. The reason I make that point is that, to my mind, the purpose of conducting a clinical trial—you conduct these trials for two reasons: firstly, to determine if the drug works, which is an efficacy question, and, secondly, to determine whether it is a safe drug. The trials that I was involved in and my contemporaries in other countries were involved in—

Senator MOORE: Your trial was in—

Mr S McCarthy : Mine was in Bougainville. We were given an experimental drug. That is a fact. One of the purposes of that experiment was to determine whether or not that drug was safe. Our experience, because we were in those trials, is that those drugs are not safe. Again, I accept that there is dispute. I absolutely accept that, but, if the purpose of an experiment is to determine whether or not a drug is safe, we are saying we have very serious safety concerns about that drug, and those concerns are substantiated—at least you could accept that at least some of our concerns are substantiated. That would be reasonable. Why is it, then, that two decades later, when these drugs are still on the cusp of being registered, the onus is now placed on us to prove that drug is dangerous? To me that's a logical absurdity. The onus should remain on the proponents of a drug to prove that it's safe. It just strikes me as completely absurd that that onus of proof and that onus of evidence are being reversed.

Senator MOORE: And you do accept that everything we've read starts with, 'There is no such thing as a totally safe drug'?

Mr S McCarthy : Absolutely. Yes, I do. But, again, I'd go back to some of the points I made in my submission: at the time of particularly the drug trials in Bougainville and Timor, there were already safe registered drugs in use in the Defence Force. And I think you made a very good point about clinical trials. You actually challenged my thinking when you made a point with one of the witnesses earlier about this question of why you believe your Defence Force should not undertake clinical drug trials. Let me perhaps put the same logic into the equipment arena: would we send soldiers to war with rifles where we didn't know whether they worked? No, we wouldn't. Would we send the Air Force to war with aeroplanes when we didn't know they worked?

We grew up in Papua New Guinea. I spent most of my high school years in PNG. I've lived in countries that are affected by malaria. Absolutely there is a need for effort in various directions to, as best we possibly can, prevent and treat malaria. There is absolutely no dispute from me whatsoever. I've had malaria myself. I became very sick from malaria. That is not the dispute. The dispute is, how can we possibly justify conducting these drug trials in a military setting? But then the other point I was going to make is, when you look at this throwaway line 'all drugs have side effects', the side effects we are talking about are life-threatening side effects. I don't want to be in a situation where I'm disparaging or trivialising. These are life-threatening side effects. That's the whole issue here. I can tell you straightaway that if this was not a life-threatening issue, if people were not dying, then you wouldn't be hearing from me; I need to get on with my life. The reason I am here and the reason I am doing this is that people have died and people are dying. It's as simple as that. These are life-threatening side effects that are the issue here.

Mr B McCarthy : Senator, if I could just go back to your comments and exchanges with me about agreeing and disagreeing, in almost the last communication I had from Minister Payne she wrote words to the effect of, 'You and I will have to agree to disagree.' I understood that, but my response back to her, a few days later, was, 'How can we possibly disagree on facts?' There was no response. Finally, I think it's important for me to say that I have a substantial sympathy for Minister Payne, because I believe she's been very badly and poorly advised, and I think it's important that it goes on the record today.

CHAIR: Thank you very much for your appearance, submission and evidence here today.