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Alan Corbett was a Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) in the New South Wales Parliament from 1995 to 2003. He was an Independent, and will probably be best remembered for getting elected with very few votes and then almost immediately taking leave from his parliamentary duties because he was too busy to represent the people who were paying his salary.
Mr Corbett was originally elected on a platform called "A Better Future for Our Children". As he now seems to be getting down and dirty with the anti-vaccination liars who want a future for our children which includes the spectre of death and disease, his idea of "better" seems at odds with the normal meaning of the word.
Mr Corbett asked the following question of the Minister representing the Minister for Health in the the Legislative Council on 12 November, 2002.
The Hon. ALAN CORBETT: My question is directed to the Treasurer, representing the Minister for Health. I refer the Treasurer to the committee that the Minister for Health announced on 31 October to review the laws and regulations concerning alternative or complementary health products and practices. Is the Treasurer aware that Professor John Dwyer, the chair of the committee, has been put on notice for a potential defamation action by a person whose company is highly likely—on the basis of past scathing comments made by the professor—to be targeted for investigation by his committee? Is the Treasurer also aware that Professor Dwyer is a longstanding critic of complementary medicine and that he does not have the confidence of practitioners in this area? Given the possible defamation action, the conflict of interest that will arise regardless of whether the defamation proceeds, and the need for the committee to be, and to be seen to be, unbiased and objective in its review, will the Minister for Health appoint a new chairperson? If not, why not?
The slandering of people while under the protection of parliamentary privilege ("put on notice for a potential defamation") is why Parliament is sometimes referred to as "The Cowards' Castle".
The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: I am not aware of the circumstances of the matter that the Hon. Alan Corbett has raised, but I will refer it to my colleague the Minister for Health for his response. I point out that the fact that someone is engaged in defamation proceedings with someone else does not necessarily mean that the parties cannot work together harmoniously. Good heavens, I have been both a plaintiff and a defendant in so many defamation cases that I could work with hardly anybody!
The Hon. ALAN CORBETT: I ask a supplementary question. Given the dearth of information available with respect to this committee, will the Minister endeavour to obtain some information about it?
The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: I will find out what I can about the committee. I did not provide any information because I was not conversant with it. I do not have any information on me.
The Hon. Alan Corbett: No-one has the information.
The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: We will find out what we can. I will then provide the information to the House.
If honourable members have further questions I suggest they put them on notice.
The Minister replied
On 12 November the Hon. Alan Corbett asked the Treasurer a question without notice relating to complementary medicine. The Minister for Health provided the following response:
Professor Dwyer is well respected and highly qualified to chair the Committee. The Minister for Health has full confidence in this ability to chair the Committee in an unbiased and objective manner.
Mr Corbett asked the following question of the Minister representing the Minister for Health in the the Legislative Council on 20 November, 2002.
COMPLEMENTARY HEALTH PRACTICES REVIEW COMMITTEE
The Hon. ALAN CORBETT: I direct my question to the Treasurer, representing the Minister for Health. Is the Minister aware that Professor John Dwyer, the chairman of the committee that has been given the task of reviewing complementary health practices and products, has never published an article on complementary medicine in peer-reviewed literature? Is he also aware that the proposed committee membership of 13 people has not one representative from any of the organisations that represent complementary health practitioners? Given that and the fact that practitioners have no confidence in Professor Dwyer, can the Minister understand why complementary health practitioners are concerned that this committee under his leadership will not be objective and fair? Will the Minister ensure that Professor Dwyer is removed from his position as Chair and that the final make-up of the committee has equal representation from individuals or organisations with expertise in the field of complementary medicine to ensure an objective and beneficial review? If not, why not?
I refer again to my mention above of the expression "Cowards' Castle".
The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: I thank the honourable member for his question and will refer it to the Minister for Health for his response.
Mr Corbett asked the following question of the Minister representing the Minister for Health in the the Legislative Council on 3 December, 2002.
PROFESSOR JOHN DWYER COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE BIAS
The Hon. ALAN CORBETT: My question is addressed to the Treasurer, representing the Minister for Health. Does the Minister believe it is an important attribute for a professor of medicine who works within the New South Wales health system to be open to examining, without bias, the evidence arising from the practice of a 200-year old form of medicine known as homoeopathy before making a judgment about its efficacy and safety? If so, does the Minister believe that sweeping generalisations that homoeopathy is nonsense and rubbish, made by Professor John Dwyer, Chair of the Health Claims and Consumer Protection Advisory Committee, a so-called expert in medicine, are acceptable?
Given that the professor is widely acknowledged as being an opponent of any form of medicine he does not understand or agree with, will the Minister, one, insist on a representative from the Australian Homoeopathic Association being on the committee and, two, listen to the protests of practitioners, consumers and industry representatives of complementary medicine and remove Professor Dwyer as both a member and chair of the committee? If not, why not?
I am sure that Professor Dwyer is fully aware of "the evidence arising from the practice of a 200-year old form of medicine known as homoeopathy". The evidence is that this bizarre form of witchcraft is nonsense, and people who practise it are either fools, liars or charlatans.
The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: I will, of course, refer the question to my colleague the Minister for Health. Professor Dwyer is a very well-known and respected medical practitioner and teacher of medicine—an academic. I am not aware of any bias on his part. I would be surprised if he was not open to argument and persuasion. I am not aware of comments that he has made on previous occasions about homoeopathy, but I will draw the content of the honourable member's question to my colleague the Minister for Health and obtain a response.