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Transcript of interview with David Speers: Sky News: 31 May 2018: Greg Hunt's verbal tirade against a 71-year-old grandmother; Greg Hunt's "highly unusual" drug deal

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SUBJECT/S: Greg Hunt’s verbal tirade against a 71-year-old grandmother; Greg Hunt’s “highly unusual” drug deal

SPEERS: You were asking a number of questions in Parliament about other incidents involving Greg Hunt, are you aware of any others?

KING: Well we asked the Prime Minister in particular if he was aware of any others. Twice he refused to answer, and half an hour later Greg Hunt was forced to actually admit that there was another incident. There of course are rumours of others that have been going around this building for some time -

SPEERS: Are those just rumours?

KING: I'm not going to get into those. I think that really it was incumbent upon the Prime Minister to actually answer the two questions I asked him honestly today. And the fact that we've now seen a second incident admitted in half an hour, I think there's a pattern of behaviour emerging here that is pretty concerning.

SPEERS: Greg Hunt did say in Question Time however that there are no incidents that have involved people going to the Department of Finance to lodge a complaint. He indicated there are no other examples of formal mediation being required. Does that satisfy some of your concerns?

KING: I think the fact that you've got the Minister admitting now two incidents - only after the media has questioned him, not because he's acknowledged that in fact there's something wrong here in this pattern of behaviour - I think you'd have to start to ask some questions about are there any others? Obviously we asked about stakeholders, staff and public servants. It's pretty concerning when you've got the former Secretary of

Health, a very senior public servant who's been around for a long period of time, being subject to that sort of behaviour.

SPEERS: The Minister didn't apologise for that one did he?


SPEERS: He defended it in fact, saying it was a matter of life and death about cervical cancer screening.

KING: Well where do you start with this? This is a Government who took a decision to give a cancer screening register to Telstra Health, in a very questionable contract - and the timing of that contract. They pushed us to make sure legislation passed the Parliament, because they said it was life and death. That cervical cancer screening register is still not up, and the bowel cancer screening register is still not up. Now I don't think you need to bully or intimidate or swear at public servants to get an outcome -

SPEERS: Is that what happened here, did he bully and intimidate him?

KING: Well it's hard to say, and that's obviously the question I asked, was can you guarantee there are no other incidents like this. And the Minister then came back and said, well yes, here's another one. So I think there's some questions around all of that.

SPEERS: As you well know, the notion of politicians swearing behind closed doors is hardly - what are you saying about Greg Hunt here, are you saying he has a problem with his temper?

KING: It would appear so given that we've now got two incidents on the public record in this line. There are rumours of others of course, but the Minister needs to answer those questions about any of those. I think the fact that -

SPEERS: Just to be clear though -

KING: He was clear about that in relation to staff -

SPEERS: But you're saying with stakeholders there might be other incidents?

KING: There may well be.

SPEERS: I don’t want to smear the guy here with just rumour but is there anything more substantial?

KING: Look I’ll leave the minister to answer those questions. Again as I’ve said -

SPEERS: So there’s only the two substantiated ones: Fay Miller, the Katherine mayor, and this obviously heated exchange with the then-department Secretary Martin Bowles.

KING: Well that’s what the minister has now admitted to but again it does seem to be a pattern. The fact that he’s only admitted to these because the media has inquired about them and not because he thinks there is something wrong in behaving in this way. I think there’s some questions that the Prime Minister has to ask - is this the sort of conduct becoming of a minister of the crown, does it meet his standards?

SPEERS: Do you think there is a problem with his temper?

KING: Yeah I do.

SPEERS: Do you think he’s fit to be a minister?

KING: Look I think that’s a matter for the Prime Minister to answer. Does this minister meet his ministerial standards, and that’s really a matter for the Prime Minister.

SPEERS: What do the ministerial standards say about swearing at stakeholders for example?

KING: That you’ll conduct yourself in a manner that is fit to represent the crown, basically. That is the notion. And of course not all of us are saints, there’s incidents that occur. But I think now that you’ve had these two - only admitted to after the media has asked some questions - I think the Prime Minister has got to say: are there any others?

SPEERS: Do you give him any credit for fronting up apologising in the way that he did today, several times?

KING: Not six months after the issue has been raised with him and only after the media has questioned him. If you’re sorry, you’re sorry because you’ve done the wrong thing, not because the media has asked you a question.

SPEERS: Can I just turn briefly to a policy matter. Today you’ve asked the national audit office to launch an investigation into the listing on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme of a drug known as afatinib, also known as Giotrif.

KING: Yeah it’s a lung cancer drug.

SPEERS: What’s your concern about the listing of this drug?

KING: So look it’s been after Senate estimates yesterday it was pretty clear and the department itself said there was some very unusual circumstances surrounding the listing of this drug. Now we support the listing of the drug, it was listed by PBAC back in 2013. What’s unusual about this is there was also a recommendation that the drug not be subject to a special pricing arrangement.

SPEERS: And what’s a special pricing arrangement?

KING: It’s basically where the drug company doesn’t have to publish, or doesn’t have to disclose, it’s pricing arrangements because there’s a competitive issue that’s going to happen there. And they’re not usual - they’re unusual arrangements. So PBAC has basically recommended that this didn’t have that arrangement for several years. Suddenly for some reason or other - we suspect because there’s been another arrangement the Government has been trying to do with this drug company around another issue - suddenly this drug has got a special pricing arrangement. And the department itself said this was a very unusual circumstance and we think it is an unusual circumstance.

SPEERS: So what do you think has gone on here? With this drug company, and just remind me which drug company we’re talking about here, which is -

KING: Well we haven’t named them -

SPEERS: Okay, so what this company is doing something on another drug to help the Government?

KING: On a trial in terms of some of the pricing reforms the Government has been trying to get through to get some savings. So you know the principle of the PBS is that is a scheme that is independent of government. Of course all government’s need to make decisions about when they’re going to find and where they’re going to find money to list drugs. But the decisions of PBAC generally don’t get reversed by a minister and in this case it looks like a minister has actually then said we’re not going to accept a recommendation on a special pricing arrangement on a drug. You open that door on a $12 billion government program - that’s a pretty serious thing to do. So we’ve asked the audit office to have a look at it.

SPEERS: Shadow Health Minister Catherine King, appreciate your time.

KING: Really good to talk to you.



Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra