Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 7 Hansard (22 August) . . Page.. 1894..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
a high risk of adverse side effects, which the Adverse Drug Reactions Advisory Committee—an expert committee of the Therapeutic Drugs Administration—describes as "bizarre sleep related behaviour". This behaviour involves sleep-walking events which can lead to death, and it has done so in a number of cases. Even cases of attempted murder have been recorded.
A former member of this place and colleague of ours, Mrs Helen Cross, suffered from, and still suffers from, depression. She suffered from depression, it seems, while she was a member of this place. She has also suffered from the bizarre, life-threatening side effects of Zolpidem. I recently saw her; I saw the caseload of drugs, as big as a guitar case, which she was taking. Thankfully, she is now off this drug and has taken on the cause of raising public awareness of its effects through her involvement with the Adverse Medical Events Line, an interactive service through which consumers can seek information or report adverse events associated with medicines.
I have to say that I, my then party colleagues and probably everyone else in this Assembly were oblivious to her illness. I suppose it is true to say that during her time in the Assembly she was subjected to some pretty ordinary behaviour from various people in the Assembly. Helen was ultimately expelled from the Liberal party room in September 2002. Whilst I was reluctant to go along with that, I did so in the end. I believe I was wrong to do that, and I am happy to place on the record my apologies to her for getting that wrong.
She actually achieved quite a bit in her time here. She introduced a number of bills, the highlight of which was the landmark bill in relation to asbestos. That legislation greatly enhanced the safety of many Canberra citizens. I am delighted to see her continue to contribute in many other areas locally, nationally and even internationally since she has left here. She has certainly worked through many barriers to achieve what she has. I am pleased to see her now working through the barriers of her illness with the same vigour.
Despite any past differences, Helen and I remain friends. I have spoken with her on a number of occasions and I look forward to a continuing association. I am pleased to see she is actively involved in the Adverse Medical Events Line. It is quite scary to think that some drugs do have adverse side effects. Indeed, we all need to ensure that people being treated for this unfortunately quite common illness—depression—are receiving proper medication. I certainly wish her the very best for her continuing recovery—as I am sure all members will—from her illness and a return to the full and active life she once enjoyed. I certainly wish her very good luck in raising awareness of the effects of medication through the Adverse Medical Events Line. I commend that organisation for its work.
MRS BURKE (Molonglo) (5.53): On Friday, 10 August, I released a media statement titled "Not Another Health Plan". In the fourth paragraph of that media release I said:
In six years of the Stanhope Government, we have had three Health Ministers and now we are on to our sixth or is it seventh health reform plan and the Stanhope Government is still unable to actually improve the health system.