Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 2 Hansard (20 February) . . Page.. 404..
MRS DUNNE: My question is to the Minister for Health. Minister, during question time yesterday, you admitted that there had been discussions and negotiations, which was the word that you used on ABC radio on 14 January, with officers of the Department of Health and Community Care and the Community Advocate. At what time during the negotiations that you admit to having conducted was a decision reached to abandon Ms Grayson and what were the terms of the agreement that you reached with her?
MR STANHOPE: Mr Speaker, I am not sure whether I have just been Gary-ed.
Mr Humphries: You actually said it. We have the transcript and you have been faithfully quoted.
MR STANHOPE: Is it sexist to suggest that I have been Gary-ed by Mrs Dunne? Perhaps I am being picky.
Mr Speaker, we did have this question yesterday and we did have an exchange or a discussion, which I did not provoke in any way, about whether I had engaged in consultations or I had engaged in negotiations. To the extent that the question suggests or supposes that I in any way engaged in any "negotiations" with any member of the public service or any official named adversely in the report with a view to doing some sort of deal with them, that is not true.
In terms of when I met or did not meet with Ms Grayson and what I may or may not have said, I would have to refer to records. I have met twice with Ms Grayson. I do not believe that I met at any stage with Ms Grayson before she made the very significant decision that she made to seek to stand aside from the duties that she was performing in the disability program. I will check that. I will check the time of the meeting and I would be more than happy to give the member an answer to that issue.
Whilst we are talking about those members of the public service or public officials that were named adversely in the report and the ensuing public debate which consumes them, I do need to put on the record a correction in relation to particularly the heading with which the Canberra Times led its story today. A suggestion that the board of inquiry had recommended that there was a connection between its recommendations and the deaths of people within the care of the disability program is not, I believe, in any way a reflection of what, indeed, the board of inquiry did recommend.
The board of inquiry did not seek to pre-empt the coronial inquest. In fact, the inquest is proceeding in relation to two of the people who did die in the care of the disability program. For the Canberra Times to lead today with a suggestion that public servants were to be sacked over the deaths is, I think, probably a serious defamation of those public servants. I think that it is probably actionable. I have to say that I think it is regrettable that those public servants have been caught up in that sort of sensationalist treatment of the issue.