Page 1031 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 15 March 2005

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . .

In addition to Walk Against Want, people choose to donate separately to Oxfam’s overseas and indigenous Australian programs and many support Oxfam’s work regularly by donating through various credit facilities. I would encourage people to think about exploring that opportunity.

Canberra Hospital—constituent feedback

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (4.42): Mr Speaker, last week in this place the Minister for Health, Mr Corbell, read out part of a letter which described the experience of one of his constituents at the Canberra Public Hospital. As members will doubtless recall, Mr Corbell’s correspondent told a heart-warming story of the wonderful treatment her six-year-old son had received at the emergency department after falling off the monkey bars, an interesting parallel to the story that I heard in the corridor the day before.

Among other things, the correspondent referred to “the horrible things the opposition has been saying about the state of the health system”. Whatever his reasons, Mr Corbell, for his intervention, got me thinking about historical antecedents to such activity because, there can be no doubt about it, in bringing this reading matter to the attention of the Assembly, Mr Corbell was following in a noteworthy tradition. There are many examples but I will cite just a few.

One thinks, for example, of the Zenoviev letter that played such a significant role in the 1924 British general election. Admittedly, the style of Mr Corbell’s correspondent was not quite as magisterial as that of the then chief of the Comintern. While singing the praises of a triage nurse and a radiographer is not quite as inspiring as a call to armed class warfare, the general idea had the same ring of truth about it.

A few years earlier, there were the so-called black diaries of Sir Roger Casement that added greatly to the gaiety of British politics. As with the Zenoviev letters, there is doubt, even today, about the authenticity of the documents but no doubt about their crucial role in ensuring Casement’s complete disgrace and subsequent execution. Again, the Corbell letter did not reach quite the same level of drama, but the minister has plenty of time to get the hang of things and come up with something a little more exotic in future.

Far closer to Mr Corbell’s heart and soul are certain Australian precedents, particularly the letter his illustrious ALP forebear HV “Doc” Evatt solicited from Soviet foreign minister Molotov in 1954 asking for confirmation that the Petrov documents were forgeries. To the absolute amazement of everyone in the House of Representatives, when asked whether the Soviet government had stationed any spies in Australia, of course Comrade Molotov assured the good doctor, who then assured the House of Representatives, that they would never dream of doing such a thing. Yet, 51 years later, Mr Corbell tried hard but he could not generate the same gales of laughter from both sides of the House that greeted Dr Evatt’s revelations. But, as I say, Mr Corbell has time on his side.

There is also the example of the famed Ralph Willis letters of February 29 1996, which were shown to be forgeries. They were purported to be letters between Jeff Kennett and Peter Costello over opposition funding for the states, but unfortunately the forger had

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . .