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Helen Sham-Ho MLC

Helen Sham-Ho was a Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) in the New South Wales Parliament from 1988 to 2003. She was an Independent.

Ms Sham-Ho asked the following question of the Minister representing the Minister for Health in the the Legislative Council on 4 December, 2002.


The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: In directing a question to the Treasurer, representing the Minister for Health, I refer to issues relating to complementary and alternative medicine and to the Health Claims and Consumer Protection Advisory Committee. What is the formal position of the Government regarding the practice of traditional Chinese medicine [TCM], which is one of the main complementary health practices and which is widely used and trusted by the Chinese community in New South Wales? Is the Minister aware that Professor John Dwyer, who is chair of the committee, was reported in the Inner Western Suburbs Courier on 26 February last year to have stated and implied that TCM is unscientific, that its healers are misguided and base their practices on a complete misunderstanding of the function of the body's major organs, that every evidence of the effectiveness of the so-called "herbal cocktails" used were just anecdotes, and that any benefit was due to the placebo effect? Will the Minister make inquiries into those outrageous claims? Will he reconsider the appointment of Professor Dwyer as the chair of the committee reviewing complementary health care? [Time expired.]

Professor Dwyer will be making "inquiries into ... outrageous claims", and if Traditional Chinese Medicine can support its claims it has nothing to worry about. Perhaps it can demonstrate the existence of Qi, or the effectiveness of bear bile in the treatment of something or other, or even the usefulness of ground tiger penis for the treatment of impotence. When the Chinese swimming team came to Australia for the 1998 World Championships, the TCM products they had in their luggage still had the name of that great Chinese company Pfizer on the labels.

The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: I am not sure that I could say that the Government has a policy position on traditional Chinese medicine, and I am not sure that it would be appropriate for the Government to have such a policy.

The Hon. Helen Sham-Ho: Why not?

The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: It is not possible to have a policy on everything. I do not know what Professor Dwyer's views are on traditional Chinese medicine, but I assure the House that my mother absolutely swears by traditional Chinese medicine, and I would much prefer to take her view than the view of any professor. That is probably not a very scientific approach, but I am not a very scientific person. I look around at all the doctors in this Chamber and I think, "Heaven help us." Who on earth would put himself in the hands of the Hon. Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans?

The Hon. John Della Bosca: I might use the Hon. Henry Tsang, once.

The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: I might let the President, Dr Meredith Burgmann, treat me, I might let the Hon. Dr Henry Tsang treat me, and I think I would be inclined to let the Hon. Dr Peter Wong treat me because I am assured that he is a first-class physician. As for anaesthetics, if I needed an anaesthetist, I think that the Hon. Dr Brian Pezzutti would be pretty good, but I would not take any other type of medical advice from him because he said he did not know what lateral epicondylitis was when I was suffering from it.

The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: I ask a supplementary question. In view of what the Treasurer has said, which has not really answered the question, will he ask the Minister for Health to reconsider the appointment of Professor Dwyer as the chair of the committee that will be reviewing complementary health care, owing to his insensitive, disparaging, biased and patronising comments? If not, why not?

The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: My colleague the Deputy Leader of the House, the Special Minister of State, Minister for Industrial Relations, Assistant Treasurer, Minister Assisting the Premier on Public Sector Management, and Minister Assisting the Premier for the Central Coast has suggested that perhaps my mum would be a good chair of the committee. I am not sure that that is appropriate, so I will not take that suggestion any further. But as I stated yesterday, Professor Dwyer, even though obviously on this issue he disagrees with my mother nevertheless is an eminent medical practitioner and academic, so I would not in any way disparage him, his qualifications or his integrity.

The Hon. Duncan Gay: Just because he is not into hippie healing.

The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: Hippie healing, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition puts it, might have something going for it—who knows? For example, the Southern Cross University is doing a lot of work on herbal medicine.

The Hon. Ian Cohen: It is very successful.

The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: What does the Hon. Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans think about it?

The Hon. Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans: I was on the joint committee that was assessing it.

The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: The Hon. Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans believes in alternative medicine. I would be very wary of any assessment made by the Hon. Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans. The new member of this House, the Hon. Melinda Pavey, may appreciate learning that it was the Hon. Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans, a medical practitioner, who once suggested to the House that fathers could breastfeed. That statement appears in Hansard. Nobody else has managed to work out how that could be done, but because that statement came from the mouth of an expert, none of us is prepared to dismiss it completely.

I get the impression that Minister Egan is no longer treating the attacks on Professor Dwyer seriously.


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