Minister for Health



About this Item
SpeakersO'Farrell Mr Barry; Speaker; Skinner Mrs Jillian; Meagher Ms Reba; Assistant-Speaker (Mr Grant McBride); Campbell Mr David; Constance Mr Andrew; Firth Ms Verity; Assistant-Speaker (Ms Alison Megarrity)
BusinessDivision, Motion of No Confidence


MINISTER FOR HEALTH
Page: 7969

Motion of Censure

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL (Ku-ring-gai—Leader of the Opposition) [7.30 p.m.]: I move:
      That this House no longer has confidence in the Minister for Health for:
(1) Misleading Parliament on 6 March 2008 when she claimed background checks were not conducted on Dr Graeme Reeves before he was employed despite a Health Department memo confirming a check was conducted by at least one senior bureaucrat.

(2) Failing to respond to community concerns about Dr Reeves.

It is typical of the Minister for Health—who not only lacks competence and empathy with those who fail to get the services they deserve from the health system, but also offers no apologies for her actions—that she is not prepared to front up to this place for the start of debate on a censure motion against her. She is no doubt tutored in the skills that the Labor Party teaches to new and old Ministers in how to say everything except "Sorry", to say everything except "I resign", and to say everything except "I accept responsibility for my failures". It is clear that the Minister for Health should resign because she has misled Parliament regarding one of the most grave cases in decades that involves the medical profession, affects the Department of Health and, regrettably—as the member for Bega has pointed out repeatedly in the House—will have a devastating and lasting impact upon women across New South Wales, particularly in the Bega electorate.

The case is clear cut. The reason the Minister for Health should resign is obvious. On 6 March, in answer to a question from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the Minister for Health claimed that the Greater Southern Area Health Service:
      failed to perform background checks on a candidate who the Medical Tribunal found lied and cheated his way into a job.

She could not have been more definite. The Minister did not say, "I am advised that they failed to undertake background checks"—which is what a former Minister for Health and the current Premier always did in the Chamber. The Minister made a categorical statement. There was no doubt: her statement was designed clearly to create the impression she wanted that no background checks were undertaken.

The New South Wales Liberal Party and The Nationals have long understood the need not to take the word of the Minister for Health—or, frankly, of most of those who occupy ministerial positions in this Government. As a result, we sought through a motion in the upper House to obtain copies of documents. On 9 April 2008 the Coalition moved a production of documents order that sought under Standing Order 52 of the other place that:

      there be laid upon the table of the House within 14 days of the date of the passing of this resolution all documents in the possession, custody or control of the Minister for Health or the Department of Health relating to the appointment in 2001 of Dr Graeme Reeves to the Greater Southern Area Health Service and any document which records or refers to the production of documents as a result of this order of the House.
As other speakers in the debate will point out, the documents tabled in the Legislative Council demonstrate categorically that the Minister for Health lied to this House. Since the production of those documents the Minister for Health has not come into the Chamber and sought to apologise for misleading the House or to correct the record—and that is an important issue to which I will return later.

Amongst the documents that the call for papers discovered was a file note by a senior Greater Southern Area Health Service bureaucrat, Jon Mortimer. It indicates that a background check was undertaken, despite the claim by the Minister for Health in this House. The background check, in Dr Mortimer's handwriting, is headed, "Referee's report for Dr Graeme Reeves". The only humorous thing about the background check is the statement that Dr Reeves is "OK when normal". It hardly fills me with reassurance that an area health service would employ anyone who in a background check was discovered to be only "OK when normal". Maybe that is okay for the Iemma Government but it is pretty horrific in these circumstances. The next line of the document says, "not meant to do obstetrics". Yet this person was applying for a position with the Greater Southern Area Health Service as an obstetrician and gynaecologist. This was a person whose background was being checked to allow him to practise obstetrics and gynaecology on women served by the Greater Southern Area Health Service—and it discovered that he was not to do obstetrics. Yet, as we now know, to the great shame of this State and to the great distress and lasting agony of the women involved, he was employed.

It is this document that blew the whistle on Reba Meagher's lie. If there were justice in this Chamber—I know we are in not a court of law but a House of Parliament—the Minister would walk into this place, resign and walk out again with her head hanging low because there could be no clearer case. But in case those opposite have come into the Chamber to cheer for someone who would stand up for a person who is described as the "Butcher of Bega", I refer to the release of another report commissioned by the Government. The report by retired judge Deidre O'Connor—a person of impeccable record—was released last Thursday. In relation to Dr Reeves' appointment by the Greater Southern Area Health Service, the report found "SAHS carried out a criminal reference check on Dr Reeves". That is a background check by any measure and another check the Opposition was not aware of but confirmed by a former esteemed judicial officer. Page 12 states:

      Further, such inquiries should have been prompted by the fact that during referee checks carried out on Dr Reeves a clinician raised an issue about Dr Reeves' practise rights in obstetrics.
That is a reference by Judge O'Connor to Mr Mortimer's qualification, written in his handwriting as an official Department of Health document, which should have raised alarm bells about the appointment of Dr Reeves to such a sensitive position. By any measure Reba Meagher has lied to the Parliament—

      Mr David Harris: Point of order: I refer to Standing Order 72, which relates to offensive or unbecoming words, imputations and aspersions. Speaker Murray ruled on two occasions in 1995 that the terms "lied" and "lying" are unparliamentary and should not be used. In 2005 Speaker Aquilina ruled that to accuse anyone of lying was unparliamentary and did not comply with the standards of the House.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: To the point of order: Mr Speaker, as you well know, having been in this place longer than the member for Wyong, this is the most serious motion that can be moved against a Minister. The motion goes to the fact that the Minister misled and lied in the House. I am happy to give the members opposite and you a copy of the definition of "misleading" from the Macquarie Dictionary. It means lying. I do not say it lightly; I say it on the basis of two pieces of evidence that I have referred to so far. Mr Speaker, I say to you in the context of this substantive motion—one of the most serious that can be moved—that it is appropriate language, particularly for a Minister who is not prepared to front up herself.

The SPEAKER: Order! I uphold the point of order in accordance with previous rulings that the term "lying" is an unparliamentary term. However, a number of options are available to the Leader of the Opposition to state his position very clearly within the context of a parliamentary contribution.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: The Minister mendaciously misled the public in this Chamber. As has been said by a former Leader of the Opposition, the Minister lied her head off in this place on 6 March when she sought to mislead the public—which demonstrates she has as much truth as other members opposite—and sought in the most horrendous of circumstances to try to shift the blame. Let us not be under any false impression: that is what she was trying to do. Once again this Government's lack of willingness to accept any responsibility for its actions is on display. I do not care if the Minister for Health is trying to cover up for the incompetence of her current Premier, the former Minister for Health; it is simply not acceptable when a scandal such as this is uncovered for a Minister to behave in that way.

By any measure the Minister lied and misled the Parliament. By Labor's measure she should be sacked. If the Minister is not prepared to leave herself, the Premier should sack her. It is time that this vote of no confidence was passed, because the Minister has been found wanting on more than one occasion. She clearly lacks the competence to run the State's biggest portfolio—$12.5 billion last year and $12.8 billion this financial year. The Minister lacks compassion or empathy in relation to those who have been let down by the health system under her administration. She fails to offer any hope of improvement to those who work in the health system and those who rely upon it for services. The Minister for Health has been found wanting in this affair from the start.

On 26 September 2007 the member for Bega first raised in this place not concerns about the practices of Dr Reeves but the evidence of what Dr Reeves was doing, the harm that he has inflicted, the mutilation and ongoing distress that he caused to constituents of the member for Bega and his former patients. The member for Bega concluded his contribution by urging the Minister to undertake an investigation. Did it happen? No. The Minister should no longer be the Minister for Health on a number of grounds. First and foremost, even when tipped off about something so horrendous she, like every other Iemma Government Minister, waited until it became a media issue before being seen to do something. She had not addressed the issue, and that is why she engaged in this lie.

When the mendacious activities of the Minister for Health were exposed and it was clear that she misled this place and deliberately sought to create an impression that was false, did she seek to apologise? No, she has not apologised to this day. Has she sought on any sitting day since 6 March to say to the House, "I got it wrong. I apologise to the House. I should not have said this. I will make sure it does not happen again"? The only defence of the Minister for Health when she was questioned on 15 May was to claim that the Mortimer reference was not an official memorandum or document of the Department of Health. Somehow or other her claim on that day in response to a question from the Leader of The Nationals was that because it was handwritten it was not official.

This document only came to light in response to a request from the upper House for the production by the Department of Health of all the official documents that it held on the reappointment of Dr Reeves. Those documents were provided to the upper House with a covering note signed by a gentleman called Todd Hayward who apparently is the chief of staff of the Minister for Health. Despite those documents from her own department that had been signed off by her chief of staff on 15 May the Minister for Health sought to claim that they were not official documents. She again lied her head off in this Chamber. On 6 March she lied her head off about no background checks for Dr Reeves. We know from the tabled papers that Mr Mortimer carried out a background check—this was confirmed by Judge O'Connor—together with another criminal reference background check. To exacerbate the problem, this woman who apparently has no compunction about lying her head off in this House, on 15 May—

Mr Barry Collier: Point of order: The Leader of the Opposition is continually canvassing your ruling with the use of the word "lie".

The SPEAKER: Order! I uphold the point of order. I ask the Leader of the Opposition to refrain from using the term "lying". I have ruled that it is an unparliamentary term and I do not want to hear it used again in the Chamber.

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I think "Reba Meagher" is an unparliamentary term. Reba Meagher is a grub who should not sit in this place, because she is prepared to play politics with women who have been mutilated by a doctor. She claimed no background checks were made on the doctor, but evidence clearly indicates that there were background checks, and she is not prepared to justify that situation. That is why I call her a grub, and I will continue to call her such names until she is prepared to front up to the Chamber.

Mr Nathan Rees: All class, Barry!

Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Yes, all class. I do not think the Minister for Health has any class. Putting aside her Labor Party loyalties, where is her compassion to the women mutilated by this bloke? Where was her action in September 2007 when the member for Bega urged an inquiry and she sat on her hands? For goodness sake, she is a woman! She ought to understand better than the Minister for Water and me the sort of pain and suffering these women have gone through. But what did she do? She simply sought again to behave as members of the Labor Party always behave. They ignore the issue hoping that it will go away: it is not a real problem until it makes the media.

Thank goodness there are brave people in the electorate of Bega and people in the media prepared to expose these sorts of scandals, because if it were left to those opposite with the moral and ethical code of the Minister for Health we would have no evidence of what had gone on, and who knows where Dr Reeves would be today and how many other Dr Reeves would be in the health department? Who knows how many other victims of people engaging in those sorts of practices would exist in our electorates? If the Minister for Emergency Services, and Minister for Water wants to cast aspersions on me, I ask him to think about his female constituents and the impact this could have had upon them.

Today is the first sitting day since Deirdre Connor's report became available. I would have thought that a person who was decent, honourable and honest, who had some ethics, and who had empathy, compassion and sympathy for those whom, as a Minister of the Crown and as the Minister for Health, she is meant to represent and whose interests she is meant to protect, might have fronted up to the House today, particularly on a day when the State budget is delivered, when she is unlikely to get media attention, and done the right thing and said, "I got it wrong. Here is Deirdre O'Connor's report. It demonstrates that I got it wrong." But, of course, she was not prepared to do that; she is not even prepared to come into the House at this time. She had an opportunity before and after Question Time today when, on both occasions, Mr Speaker called for ministerial statements to get up and do the honourable thing. She could have done the honourable thing at any stage as a Government Minister, because standing orders would have been suspended for her.

That is when the refusal of Morris Iemma to impose standards becomes an issue. Those of us who were here in October 2006 remember a remarkable happening. A Minister of the Crown was sacked for misleading Parliament. What was extraordinary in that circumstance was that Carl Scully was sacked not for misleading the House once, but for misleading the House twice. On 26 October 2006 Morris Iemma, in justifying why he had sacked Carl Scully the night before, said that Carl Scully had made one mistake too many. Premier Iemma said that he had accepted Minister Carl Scully's apology for previously misleading the House, but that when he misled the House again, he had to go.

At that time the media made much of the Premier's rewriting of the Westminster tradition, which is that if a Minister misleads the House once, he or she is meant to go. But, no, Morris Iemma made it once too often. We now know that the Minister for Health has misled the House and that she has done so on a number of occasions. First, she misled the House when she said that no background checks had been done; second, she misled the House when she suggested that Mr Mortimer's background check and note, which Deirdre O'Connor found satisfactory as evidence that the former Southern Area Health Service had undertaken a background check, was an official document of the Department of Health; and, third, she exacerbated her problem by not coming into the House today at the start of Question Time, 'fessing up and throwing herself on the mercy of the House. For all of those reasons, she should go.

If the Minister for Health will not resign, Premier Morris Iemma should sack her. That is what he did to Carl Scully. The Minister for Health failed to fix the problem today when the House sat: no ministerial statement, no contrition, no apology. The same offence by two Ministers, but double standards. Why do we have double standards? Why the differential treatment between Reba Meagher and Carl Scully? One is a mate, one was a rival. The suggestion that Premier Morris Iemma puts the public interest ahead of his political interest is further exposed by his failure when it comes to a gross breach of duty by the Minister for Health, when it comes to her mendacious activities within this place, and when it comes to the fact that she is prepared to mislead the public deliberately, willingly, repeatedly and without remorse.

The Premier is not prepared to do to the Minister for Health what he did to Carl Scully. It is the mark of Graham that sits on Premier Morris Iemma; that is, the mark of Graham Richardson, his version of the mark of Cain. No matter how much he tries to wash it off, the whatever-it-takes approach that is ingrained in our Premier will continue as long as he is in the job. I am conscious that crossbenchers do not normally support a motion such as this, and, of course, I would not expect Mr Speaker to do so. However, I say to the Independent members of this Chamber that this motion is not usual: it is a serious motion about a grave situation—the horrific treatment of women by someone employed by the Department of Health—and an appalling failure of the Government to employ that person, as confirmed by Deirdre O'Connor. The Minister for Health has made a bungled attempt to cover it up, and her boss, the Premier, has refused to maintain any sort of standard.

I implore and urge the Independents on this occasion not to do a Pontius Pilate, but to vote for the motion and stand up for the victims of that bloke—Graeme Reeves—to stand up for those who want better standards in our society and, above all, to stand up for those who want the tone of this place to be lifted. They could send the strongest possible message by their vote for this motion this evening, and send a warning to others in the Government who may decide at a later date to adopt this tactic.

Premier Morris Iemma's refusal to act fails the victims of Dr Reeves; it fails the honest, hardworking health professionals who are doing their jobs across the health system under difficult conditions. Of course, when a pattern of behaviour starts it is just that; and it continues. If one looks at the press releases issued by Reba Meagher as the Reeves issue started to attract media attention, one sees that she casts aspersions on health professionals all the way through them. She was happy, and I would have no objection, to seek to lay the blame on Graeme Reeves for his actions, but she then sought to broaden the attack on other health professionals as she sought to flurry around and share the blame.

There is so much blame emanating from this Government, but not enough citizens in the State to share it. Unbelievably, in this most critical issue, the Minister for Health was prepared to try to share the blame. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will say that she sought to share the blame by suggesting the problem was related to broader issues affecting the medical profession; about the unwillingness of clinicians to report malpractice by other clinicians, issues that Judge O'Connor found had no substance, but that did not stop the Minister the Health from issuing media release after media release seeking to bring into disrepute thousands of hardworking health professionals within the New South Wales Department of Health and the area health services—they are the people that Premier Morris Iemma should stand up for.
Finally, Premier Morris Iemma should stand up for the community who deserve, want and need not only better health services but also a Minister for Health who is capable of managing the State's largest portfolio. Since this matter was first raised in May, and since the O'Connor report was released last week, Premier Morris Iemma has had the chance to stand up, the chance to raise the standard of accountability that applies in his Government, the chance to say, "This is the day on which we start to become an honest Government", but he has failed. Instead, he has chosen to protect his incompetent friend, Reba Meagher. He continues to expose those who work in the Health portfolio and the public who rely on the health system to her continued bungling incompetence. God help us all.

      Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER (North Shore—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [7.57 p.m.]: Mr Speaker, it is astonishing—
The SPEAKER: Order! The Minister has arrived late, and I beg the indulgence of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to allow her to speak now. The sessional orders provide for the Minister named to speak after the mover of the motion. Everyone will have an opportunity to speak, as provided under the sessional orders.

      Mr Adrian Piccoli: Point of order: It was a deliberate strategy of the Minister to not be here while the Leader of the Opposition spoke. That is the risk that the Minister took. As part of the standing orders, if no-one seeks the call the House does not stop and the next member who seeks the call is given the call. The shadow Minister for Health sought the call. The rules are the rules. The Minister took the risk by not being here and then she tried to sneak in. She did not want to confront—
The SPEAKER: Order! The mover of the motion and the member named have an unspecified time to speak. I will call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition as soon as the Minister has concluded her contribution. It is purely a process issue. I apologise to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I ask members to be in the Chamber as early as possible if they are expecting the call.

      Ms REBA MEAGHER (Cabramatta—Minister for Health) [8.00 p.m.]: As I have said in this House on a number of occasions the allegations surrounding Graeme Reeves' appointment and medical practice have been disturbing in the extreme. Contrary to the allegations that have been made here this evening by the Leader of the Opposition, I have forthrightly and sincerely apologised on a number of occasions to the women who have been affected by these circumstances. Indeed, my focus has been on addressing their concerns and trying to meet the needs of the victims. [Quorum called for.]
[The bells having been rung and a quorum having formed, business resumed.]
As I have said, the allegations surrounding Dr Graeme Reeves have been of enormous concern and very disturbing for everybody. That is why my focus has been on moving forward by addressing the concerns of victims and introducing legislation to ensure the strongest protection for patients against unscrupulous conduct by medical practitioners. It is a condemnation of the Opposition that it has done nothing in this whole issue but try to use it for its own tawdry political purposes. There has been far too much selective quoting of reports and documents when it comes to the O'Connor report and the documents produced with regard to the Reeves matter, so I welcome the opportunity this evening to set the record straight. With regard to the appointment of Reeves at the Southern Area Heath Service, Ms Deirdre O'Connor found the following:

      SAHS did not make any direct inquiries of the NSW Medical Board to check Dr Reeves' registration status or whether he had conditions and was unaware of the order made by the PSC in June 1997 that Dr Reeves was not to practice obstetrics.
They are not my words; they are the words of Deidre O'Connor, straight from page 11 of the report. The Southern Area Health Service did not make any direct inquiries of the New South Wales Medical Board to check Dr Reeves' registration status. Ms O'Connor went on to say:

      The applicable policies at the time required SAHS to 'thoroughly check' Dr Reeves' registration prior to his commencement as a Visiting Medical Officer.
      Further by April 2002 an additional policy had been introduced by NSW Health requiring that applicable proof of professional registration be sighted at the time of the interview.
From this Ms O'Connor concluded the following:

      I accept that it is not entirely clear whether the NSW Health policy requirements described above that were applicable at the time of Dr Reeves' appointment to Southern Area Health Service required health services to make direct contact with the Medical Board to verify registration status in all instances ...

      However in the circumstances of Dr Reeves' application I consider SAHS was required to take these steps.

      The information provided by Dr Reeves indicating that he had been the subject of action by the Medical Board and had conditions placed on his registration should have led SAHS to make direct enquiries of the Medical Board.
Those comments come from page 12 of the O'Connor report and are a clear reference to a background check that was not done. Those opposite might believe that close enough is good enough, but I do not believe it is. I have made that clear in this House on repeated occasions. Those opposite will have this House believe that there was nothing wrong with the appointment process of Dr Reeves. That is now the logic being propagated by the Opposition. To support their case they have made another selective reference to a handwritten diary entry of 15 April 2002 by Dr Jon Mortimer, the Deputy Director of Medical Services at Southern Area Health Service at the time. Those opposite assert that this is clear evidence that a background check was carried out, despite the findings of the O'Connor report to the contrary. I will come back to that matter in time.
I have stated that I am not going to make any excuses for the failures in an appointment process that was undertaken by Southern Area Health Service in 2002. I have said the area health service did not perform the background checks it should have even in the context of someone who attempted to lie his way into a job. This was confirmed by the findings of Justice McGuire, who presided over the Medical Tribunal hearing into Reeves in 2004. The judge found of Reeves:

      He was prepared to take whatever steps he deemed expedient to place himself in a position whereby he could resume practice as an obstetrician ...
      Those steps included bare faced lies and calculated omissions to provide information which he knew would affect his application.
The O'Connor report also makes reference to Reeves' deception and the role it played in his flawed recruitment process. I quote again from page 12 of the report:

      It is also relevant to note, however, that the failure to make enquiries—
I repeat—the failure to make inquiries—

      of the Medical Board occurred in a context in which Dr Reeves deliberately set out to deceive SAHS as to the conditions that had been placed on his registration as a result of the PSC decision in June 1997.
The report then goes on to list a number of ways in which this deception was crafted. The O'Connor report findings reflect what I have said in this House on more than one occasion. I will repeat those key findings. Southern Area Health Service did not make any direct inquiries of the New South Wales Medical Board to check Dr Reeves' registration status or whether he had conditions—
    The SPEAKER: Order! The House will come to order.

        Ms REBA MEAGHER: The Opposition seems to fail to understand that the Area Health Service failed to undertake a background check with the New South Wales Medical Board. Deirdre O'Connor went on to say that in the circumstances of Dr Reeves' application, she considered the Southern Area Health Service was required to take those steps. She further went on to say that the information provided by Dr Reeves indicating that he had been the subject of action by the Medical Board and had had conditions placed on his registration should have led the Southern Area Health Service to make direct inquiries of the board. The message for those opposite is this: You can play with the words and waste the time of this House because you do not have a policy and you do not have any idea how to make the New South Wales health system any more robust than we have made it.

    Opposition members have run out of ways to denigrate the hardworking doctors and nurses in our health system. I would have thought that they would have thought twice before deciding to quote selectively from the report of Ms Deirdre O'Connor—the first Australian female to be appointed a Federal Court justice—with the intent of misrepresenting her findings. Her report deserves to be read in full, not picked apart to satisfy the agenda of Opposition members in a no-confidence motion in this House. I express the Government's appreciation to Ms O'Connor for the work she has undertaken in the examination of Dr Reeves in the New South Wales health system and the contribution that that has made to the review of the Medical Practice Act.

    The review focused on the need to strengthen protection for the public from doctors engaging in a pattern of misconduct or poor performance. The results of the review formed the basis of the changes that are now before the House in the Medical Practice Amendment Bill. I look forward to seeing whether those opposite support amendments that are designed to restore public confidence in the trusted position that doctors have in people's lives. Apart from selectively quoting from the O'Connor report, Opposition members have been even more selective in their reading and quoting of the 27 documents that were delivered in response to the Legislative Council's order for papers on the subject of the appointment in 2002 of Dr Reeves to the Southern Area Health Service. In fact, so far they have been able to find only one of these 27 documents to satisfy their agenda—an agenda that has nothing to do with protecting patients.

    These documents were considered also by Justice O'Connor as part of the broader review she conducted into the appointment, management and termination of Dr Reeves as a visiting medical officer in the public health system. It would have been too onerous a task for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition or anyone in the Opposition to read through all 27 documents in sequence and to represent them properly. It is far easier for those opposite to give them a quick scan and to pick out a quote from any document that suits the story that they want to tell and misrepresent the full set of documents. It is time for us to paint a broader picture of what those documents tell us. The first document of interest is dated 10 February 2002. It is a facsimile from Dr Reeves to the Southern Area Health Service lodging his official application for an advertised position calling for a suitably qualified obstetrician and gynaecologist for the Bega Valley.

    As part of the application, Reeves provided a curriculum vitae that listed three referees. I will remind members later of that reference to three referees. On 10 February 2002 he also provided a statement with regard to his medical registration. That statement made reference to the fact that in 1997 his registration was made conditional on the basis of a severe depression and he was placed in the Impaired Physicians Program. However, at that time Dr Reeves provided no disclosure of the decision of the Professional Standards Committee of the Medical Board to ban him from practising obstetrics. We know from the findings of the O'Connor report that the area health service failed to check the details of his registration with the Medical Board, despite Reeves indicating—

    [Interruption]

    The harping from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is becoming irritating. When I have finished she will have an opportunity to paint a broader case. The sad thing is that Opposition members are so determined on their course of action that they will not be swayed by the facts I am laying out before them.

    The SPEAKER: Order! The House will come to order.

    Ms REBA MEAGHER: As I said, we know from the findings of the O'Connor report that the area health service failed to check the details of Dr Reeves' registration with the board, despite the fact that he had indicated that he had been the subject of action by the board and that conditions had been placed on his registration. The next document of interest is dated 26 March 2002—we go from 10 February to 26 March 2002—and it relates to the minutes of the meeting of the credentials committee of the Southern Area Health Service held at 6.30 p.m. Dr John Mortimer, Deputy Director of Medical Services, chaired that committee. The minutes make specific reference to the consideration of Dr Graeme Reeves for the position of visiting specialist obstetrician-gynaecologist at Bega and Pambula hospitals. The minutes make the following reference:

        The conditions of registration (that is Reeves' Medical Board registration) were described to the Committee.
    Again we know that the area health service failed to check directly with the board about the conditions on Reeves registration—rather, it accepted his word. With regard to Reeves' application, the minute of the credentials committee shows the following determination:

        The Committee RECOMMENDED clinical privileges in obstetrics and gynaecology within the delineated roles of Bega and Pambula Hospitals.
    At this point I add that there is no documented evidence that any referee checks had been conducted with regard to Reeves. In relation to all three referees that he supplied on his CV, there is no indication that they had been contacted prior to the recommendation being made.

    The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Bega will cease calling out.

    Ms REBA MEAGHER: The next document of interest, which is also dated 26 March 2002, is a letter to Dr Reeves signed on behalf of Dr Robert Arthurson, Director of Medical Services at the Southern Area Health Service. The letter advises Dr Reeves that his interview via teleconference with the Medical and Dental Appointments Advisory Committee of the southern area would be held at 6.30 p.m. on 2 April. It confirms the following:
        Members of the Medical and Dental Appointment Advisory Committee consist of representatives from the Southern Area Health Service Board, Executive staff and visiting medical officers.

    It goes on to state:
        The Medical and Dental Appointments Advisory Committee will make its recommendation to the Board.

    The next document relates to the minutes of the Medical and Dental Appointments Advisory Committee that was held on 2 April. Mr Grattan Wilson chaired the committee and Dr Jon Mortimer was the secretary. With regard to the position of the specialist obstetrician at Bega and Pambula hospitals the committee minutes read as follows:
        There was a discussion on the merits of the candidates. It was RECOMMENDED that Dr Graeme Reeves be offered the position. The other two candidates were considered unsuitable for the position.

    It is worth noting again that, at this time—2 April—almost two months since Dr Reeves had submitted his CV on 10 February and when an advisory committee had recommended Reeves' appointment to the Southern Area Health Service Board, there is still no record that any referee check had been conducted. The next document to which I make reference is the one that has been conveniently ignored by the Opposition. It is a letter to Dr Reeves dated 10 April 2002, again from Dr Robert Arthurson, Director of Medical Services. It refers to an application by Dr Reeves for appointment as a locum visiting medical officer at Pambula District Hospital for the period 10 to 13 April 2002. It states the following:
        I am pleased to advise that your temporary appointment has been approved.

        Clinical privileges are consistent with your credentials as a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist.

        Your duties during this period are to provide an on-call obstetric service for emergency caesarean sections, if indicated.

    Enclosed in the letter is a 13-page fee-for-service contract. By 10 April 2002 we have the following situation: a letter and a contract were offered for approval for Reeves to provide locum coverage at Pambula District Hospital from 10 to 13 April. Furthermore, a recommendation from the Medical and Dental Appointments Advisory Committee of the Southern Area Health Service had also been made that Reeves be offered the permanent visiting medical officer position of specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist at Bega and Pambula district hospitals. He had been offered the job. There is no evidence that any referee checks on Reeves had been done, despite the area being in possession of his CV, including the three referees that he had listed since 10 February.

    There is no evidence that the area health service checked the information provided by Reeves with regard to his registration with the Medical Board, which we know from the O'Connor report did not take place at any stage. Yet despite this trail of documents that tell us these facts, the Opposition will have you believe that this was not a flawed recruitment process. I cannot understand that logic. That is what Opposition members must believe because they have accused me of being misleading in making statements to this House that the Southern Area Health Service in 2002 did not carry out the background checks it should have. I say again that that service did not.

    The bunch of hypocrites sitting opposite originally asked on 6 March how Reeves could have been employed, but by 15 May they had slightly shifted their position and were of the view that somehow the recruitment process was not flawed and that in fact I was trying to tell some sort of lie about it. That is just rank hypocrisy and the documents bear out the position that I have put to this House on a number of occasions and that I have repeated publicly at press conferences. Nothing but hypocrisy comes from those opposite. I return to the documents. The next document of interest in the sequence provided in the call for papers is dated 12 April 2002. Importantly, this is an extract of the Southern Area Health Service board meeting. Item 9.6 on the agenda of that meeting is titled "Medical and Dental Appointment Advisory—Minutes dated 2 April 2002". It goes on to note:
        Dr J Mortimer spoke to the Minutes of the Medical and Dental Appointments Advisory Committee dated 2 April 2002:
    A motion was moved that Dr Graeme Reeves be offered the position of specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist and this motion was formally approved by the board—that was 12 April 2002.

    We then come to the only document in this sequence of documents that the Opposition has found interesting. Unlike the others to which I have made reference, it is not a formal document. It is a handwritten diary entry of 15 April. It is unsigned, but is identified in the call for papers as belonging to Dr Jon Mortimer. The note makes reference to a phone call to or from a referee for Reeves. It does not identify the referee, so it is unclear if it is one of the three referees identified by Reeves in his curriculum vitae on 10 February. Far from answering any questions, it actually raises a whole series of questions: Why did it take two months for any record of a referee check on Reeves to take place? Why would that referee check have occurred after and not before the Southern Area Health Service Credentials Committee had recommended the permanent appointment? That is right—it occurred after the permanent appointment had been recommended, not beforehand. It was after the Medical and Dental Appointments Advisory Committee had recommended his appointment and after Reeves had been appointed to a fee-for-service locum contract at Pambula Hospital.

    If the phone call took place on 11 April, did Dr Jon Mortimer alert the board to the referee's report before it appointed him at a meeting that he attended on 12 April 2002? If not, why not? Why was the diary entry relating to this phone call of 11 April made on 15 April 2002, three days after the board had formally endorsed Reeves appointment as a VMO obstetrician-gynaecologist? Why? The only person who can answer these questions is Dr Jon Mortimer. My advice is that when this series of documents was brought to the attention of the Greater Southern Area Health Service the Chief Executive, Ms Heather Gray, wrote to Dr Mortimer and asked him to account for his role in the events of this time. I am advised that Dr Mortimer has since been suspended from duty and he remains suspended at this time.

    Further, the O'Connor report into the appointment, management and termination of Dr Reeves during his time of employment in the public sector has been forwarded to Special Commissioner Garling to inform his investigation of Reeves. All of these events when taken in context and in sequence point to a recruitment and appointment process that was less than satisfactory. It is an absolute nonsense to suggest that an unofficial handwritten diary note constitutes adequate background checks, considering that even that was made after two formal committee recommendations, a temporary contract for appointment had been issued and a formal board endorsement of Reeves' appointment took place. I totally refute the claims by the Opposition that I have in any way misled this House. I have said from the outset that I am appalled by the mistakes that were made during the appointment process of Dr Reeves. I have been very disturbed and saddened like everybody else in this House.

    Mr Andrew Constance: You have not seen fit to provide a trauma counsellor for women, have you?

    Ms REBA MEAGHER: That is an absolute disgrace.

    ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Mr Grant McBride): Order!

    Ms REBA MEAGHER: Like everybody, I have been horrified by the circumstances that have unfolded. That is why we have put the interests of victims first. That is why I first apologised to them. That is why we established counselling services for them. That is why I said as soon as possible that where there have been any failings in the public hospital system, New South Wales Health will meet its compensation obligations. We will explore every avenue so that we can minimise the trauma to the women involved. We have done everything to try to place the interests of victims above politics, but on this occasion the New South Wales Opposition has stooped to a new low. I stand by the things I have said. I have said them honestly and forthrightly, and the evidence supports the things I have said.

    Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER (North Shore—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [8.26 p.m.]: I have never heard such a misleading statement to the House. On top of the previous misleading statements made by the Minister for Health, that takes the cake. Selective quoting from the Parliament—

    ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Mr Grant McBride): Order!

    Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER: Mr Assistant-Speaker, I ask you to ask all of these members—

    ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Mr Grant McBride): Order! I have called for order. Please continue.

    Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER: Again this Minister has misled the House. First she misled the House on 6 March. Let me remind members that on that occasion I asked the Minister a question in the House, not the question the Minister has tried to twist today to suit her response.

    Mr Campbell: Tell the truth.

    Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER: I will tell the truth because I will read from the Hansard of 6 March 2008:
        My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Given there are 45 entries on the New South Wales Medical Board's file on Dr Graeme Reeves, including a 1997 finding of serious unsatisfactory professional conduct and impairment and a doctor's letter dated 2000 claiming Dr Reeves is "displaying unpredictable behaviour, dysfunctionality and an unsatisfactory manner with staff and patients", how could the Government have allowed this man to continue mutilating women across the State?
    The Minister replied as follows:
        In relation to the appointment of Dr Reeves in 2002, I am not going to make any excuses for the Southern Area Health Service. It failed to perform background checks on a candidate who the Medical Tribunal found lied and cheated his way into a job.
    The question was not about a background check on the medical board, it was a background check. For the Minister to suggest in this place that somehow this reference check made by Jon Mortimer is not a background check is plainly disingenuous. It is misleading the Parliament. This is the reference that was seen fit to be tabled among the papers in the Legislative Council as a formal paper required of the Government.

    ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Mr Grant McBride): Order! This is a very serious motion involving a Minister.

    Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER: It is.

    Mr Gerard Martin: Tell them!

    ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Mr Grant McBride): Order! All members, particularly the member for Bathurst, should behave in a manner befitting debate on such a serious motion.

    Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER: Perhaps the best thing I can do is skip ahead and go to what this episode has meant to patients who have been treated by Dr Reeves. I met Carolyn Dewaegeneire in July 2006 when I visited Bega with the member for Bega. I was horrified and almost moved to tears by her story. This is a woman who went in to have surgery—

    Mr Gerard Martin: Oh, don't go through that again!

    Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER: The member for Bathurst should listen to what I have to say in case this happens to a woman who is his loved one. This woman went in to have an operation for treatment of a lesion. As she was going under the anaesthetic, that doctor whispered to her, "I am taking your clitoris and all your genitalia", and that is exactly what he did. He removed all her external genitalia for a mere lesion. This woman won her case in the civil court. She won an award against Dr Reeves—the man who went on to treat other patients. It is only because of the bravery and courage of Carolyn Dewaegeneire that other women spoke out. Let me tell the House about another conversation I had with a woman who called me about how she was treated by Dr Reeves.

    ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Mr Grant McBride): Order! Earlier I made the point that this is a debate on a very serious motion, a motion of no confidence in a Minister. I expect members on both sides of the House to behave appropriately. The member for Lismore and the member for Bathurst should refrain from disorderly and inappropriate behaviour.

    Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER: A member opposite said it will not make any difference.

    ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Mr Grant McBride): Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition should not provoke members opposite and should continue with her speech.

    Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER: I must make the point that I heard an interjection—that what I have to say will not make any difference to the outcome. Sadly, that is true because Government members will not listen to a word I am saying. They will not vote to support the women of this State who have been badly misled by the Minister for Health. I will finish my story about a conversation I had with a woman who called me and said that, despite her incident having occurred almost two decades ago, she had not spoken about it with anybody until Carolyn Dewaegeneire found the courage to come forward and tell the world about what had happened.

    The woman had had a baby that had been delivered by Dr Reeves. He delivered the baby when she was eight centimetres dilated. He used forceps and put his foot up on the end of her bed to pull the baby out of her. She has suffered ever since and will suffer until she dies. Any woman in the House would understand what that means—the scarring and the mutilation—and every man in this place should be silent when he hears such stories. Let me refer again to what the Minister has said to the House. She somehow suggests that the written note was made during a reference check. I emphasise the term "reference check", or a background check with a referee. A "reference check" was the term I used in the question I asked in the House to which the Minister replied that there were no background checks.

    The note was made during a reference check with a referee on 15 April and it clearly states that Reeves was not meant to do obstetrics. That memorandum is included in the list of papers to which the Minister referred. I have read every single page. I have all the papers in my possession, if anyone wishes to see them, and I will be happy to table them in the House so that some members opposite who have the guts to read them can find out exactly what this is all about instead of blindly following a Minister who, quite frankly, is not competent. This happened on 14 April 2002. Tonight the Minister spent a lot of time suggesting that that was after Dr Reeves was appointed. It was not.

    The Minister referred selectively to documents. If she had continued, she would have referred to the signed contract that Dr Reeves was offered some two days after the reference check on 17 April. She would have referred to the signed document relating to visiting medical officer [VMO] liability coverage. Dr Reeves was appointed following an interview two days after a background check with a referee found that he was not supposed to be doing obstetrics. Why did the Minister for Health not know that? The member for Bega raised the matter in the House in September last year. Why did the Minister not call for these papers at that point? Why did she not ask for every document that had been written relating to the appointment of Dr Reeves? If she had, she would have known about the reference check and the note which, by the way, Justice O'Connor thought was a document serious enough to warrant being referred to in her official report.

    Any suggestion that the note is not an important or official document flies in the face of Justice O'Connor's report and, frankly, is an insult to a very learned and respected legal professional. The note has been referred to do in Justice O'Connor's report, but if the Minister had taken the time and been competent enough to check on exactly what the member for Bega was referring to when he raised the matter in the House in September, she would have seen the note. If she had, she would have been able to answer my question on 6 March and said, "Yes, there were background checks done, but they were not good enough." That would not have been misleading of the Parliament, but she said that there were no background checks.

    Frankly, that shows that she did not care and was not confident enough to go down to the Southern Area Health Service and ask it about it. It was only after the documents were revealed through the upper House that the Minister referred to them. The Minister has trashed all the traditions of the Parliament that I know many members of the House regard as very important. The Coalition knows that Labor will use its numbers in this place to defeat the motion.

    Mr Michael Daley: Because we know that the Minister has not done anything wrong. That is why.

    Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER: The Coalition has not moved the motion lightly. The Minister has misled the Parliament.

    [Interruption]

    The member for Bathurst should read Hansard. After being questioned in Parliament on 6 March about her involvement, she denied that background checks had been done, even though the note was part of a background check—make no mistake. It is a check with a referee. If members opposite consult a dictionary, they will find that a check with a referee is a background check. On 15 May the Minister again referred to the note as a flimsy handwritten memo. A dictionary refers to a "memo" as an official document. The O'Connor report, which was released last week, directly contradicts the Minister. The report confirms:

        enquiries should also have been prompted by the fact that during referee checks carried out on Dr Reeves a clinician raised an issue about Dr Reeves' practice rights in obstetrics.
    I am referring to page 2, page 12, and I have read the full report. The report confirms that Deirdre O'Connor viewed the check as official; otherwise, she would not have included it in her report. Misleading Parliament used to be viewed as one of the most serious offences a member of Parliament could commit. The member of Parliament whose conduct is the subject of the motion has deliberately misled the Parliament—make no mistake about that—by saying that the legislation she has amended will prevent further Dr Reeves cases from occurring. That is simply not the case. The legislation that Justice O'Connor reviewed was not legislation in relation to the employment of doctors. That legislation is legislation that I have moved to amend. A motion is set out in the Business Paper indicating that I will introduce a private member's bill to amend the Health Services Act, and my bill will make it mandatory for employers—

        Mr Michael Daley: I am sorry, but you won't be.

    Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER: I beg the member's pardon?

    Mr Michael Daley: You won't be.

    Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER: Why?

    Mr Michael Daley: Because you are on the Opposition side.

    ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Mr Grant McBride): Order! Members will cease conversations across the Chamber. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will confine her remarks to the motion.

    Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER: I am getting an indication that Government members will not support Coalition legislation that will make it mandatory for employers to run a check with the Medical Board to determine whether there is a condition attached to a doctor's employment.

    Mr Gerard Martin: The Minister has already done that.

    Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER: No. There is no provision under the law making it mandatory for an employer to check with the Medical Board. The bill introduced by the Minister to amend the Medical Practice Act amends provisions relating to doctors and requires doctors to report other doctors they believe to be impaired. That bill provides for a penalty, in the event of failure to report, of 20 penalty units. I ask Government members to point out to me any law that requires an employer to do the same thing. There is none. There are no penalty provisions under the law applying to an employer doing what the Southern Area Health Service did in relation to the employment of Dr Reeves. The Minister for Health has let down the patients of Dr Reeves who have been so badly mutilated and who expected that the Government, and the Minister in particular, would understand the anxiety, the pain and the suffering they have experienced, and act accordingly.

    Mr Steve Whan: As the Minister has said.

    Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER: I can tell that the member for Monaro is not interested in this issue. The Minister has paid lip service to our concerns. The victims of Graeme Reeves are on the record as saying that they do not believe anything the Minister has done will prevent other patients from suffering the same kind of fate. The Minister not only misled the Parliament about the background checks but she did not check with the former deputy chair of the board of the Southern Area Health Service, Mick Veitch. In 2001-02, as deputy chair, he seconded a motion approving the appointment of Dr Graeme Reeves as a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist at Bega and Pambula hospitals. Mick Veitch continued to serve as deputy chair in 2002-03, when Dr Reeves practised as an obstetrician, attending a total of 36 obstetric patients at Pambula and Bega hospitals.

    Members—particularly the member for Monaro—might be interested to know who chaired the Southern Area Health Service at that time. It was Gratton Wilson, who handed out election material for the member for Monaro at the last State election. There are Labor connections everywhere. No wonder the member for Monaro is so loud in his defence of the area health service: his mate Gratton Wilson handed out how-to-vote material at a polling booth on election day. Mick Veitch seconded the appointment of Dr Reeves. Why did the Minister not ring those close mates of the Labor Party as soon as the member for Bega raised the matter in Parliament in September 2006 and asked her to investigate it?

    Of course, there has been movement at the station since the matter has come to public attention. Denise Robinson, who was chief executive officer of the Southern Area Health Service when Graeme Reeves was appointed and who went on to be a deputy director general of NSW Health and chief health officer, has quit. She resigned at the end of April this year. Perhaps it was a matter of honour. Maybe she found it difficult to live with herself, knowing what had happened. Jon Mortimer, the author of the handwritten file note and reference check, has been stood down on full pay. I believe Commissioner Peter Garling will look into the matter.

    Mr Gerard Martin: So he should.

    Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER: Absolutely. I wrote to Mr Garling asking him to look into this matter and he replied very courteously and said that he would—before the Premier or any other Minister sought to refer the matter to him. I assure Labor members, despite their interjections and carry on, that I will always stand up for patients—particularly female patients—who are abused.

    ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Mr Grant McBride): Order! I do not mind a feisty exchange, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has taken part in such exchanges. Members on both sides will behave with civility or they will be called to order.

    Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER: Labor members are already out of hand; their behaviour in the Chamber has been disgraceful. I hope that every victim of Graeme Reeves will read Hansard and watch the video of this debate so that they can see how Labor members dismissed the Minister's misleading of Parliament and the fact that a reference check revealed that this man should not have been appointed to practise obstetrics. But he was appointed and continued to practise obstetrics and gynaecology in Pambula and Bega for many months, leading to the absolute devastation of many women. The member for Bega and I met some of them in my office, and I have spoken to many others. I know how they are suffering. They will be sickened that Labor members have behaved so badly during this debate.

    The Minister for Health tried to wheedle her way out of the censure motion with words, pretending that a reference check is not the same as a background check. In my opinion, and according to all the definitions that I have found, a background check involves checking with referees. That is what the file note referred to: a check with a referee. That check was done before Dr Reeves was offered his appointment. That is in the papers that were tabled in the upper House. I refer members to the document to which the Minister referred that reveals that the file note was made on 15 April, and the contract was signed on 17 April. I seek leave to table the documents.

    Leave not granted.

    I put on record the fact that the member for Bathurst does not want to check the documents. If he and his colleagues did so, they would find that I am telling the truth and the Minister for Health again misled the House when she suggested that the reference check was conducted after Dr Reeves was offered his contract. But the contract was signed on 17 April. It is a disgrace that the Minister has again misled the Parliament.

    Mr DAVID CAMPBELL (Keira—Minister for Police, and Minister for the Illawarra) [8.46 p.m.]: I have absolutely no hesitation in debating this motion and supporting the Minister for Health. Opposition members should be absolutely ashamed of themselves for the way in which they have chosen to try to score cheap political points by taking advantage of the distress and total anguish endured by the women who are the victims of Dr Reeves. But the reality is that the people of New South Wales have come to expect this type of behaviour from those opposite—it is all they are capable of. The Minister for Health has acknowledged and made it very clear from day one that she was not happy with the way in which Dr Reeves' employment application was assessed and the necessary background checks were not made. The Minister has not run away from this fact. She has apologised on behalf of the New South Wales health system and made it clear that changes are needed.

    Rather than carping from the sidelines like those opposite, the Minister for Health and the New South Wales Government have acted swiftly and appropriately. Let us make clear what the Government has done in relation to this issue once we were made aware of it. The matter was referred to the police for investigation, and Strike Force Tarella was established. Former Federal Court judge Deirdre O'Connor was commissioned by the Department of Health to review the circumstances surrounding the appointment, management and termination of Dr Reeves. The issue was referred to a special commission of inquiry, and the allegations were forwarded to the Health Care Complaints Commission. So perhaps, just once, Opposition members should take a long, hard look at themselves and, instead of trying to score some cheap headlines, support the Government in trying to get justice for the women who have had horrendous physical and psychological experiences allegedly at the hands of this individual.

    Since the establishment of Strike Force Tarella in February, detectives have been continuing to carry out extensive inquiries into allegations about this former New South Wales doctor. Experienced police tell me that historical complaints of this nature require thorough investigation, and a core team of 18 officers is dedicated to the inquiry. I am advised that this core team of detectives is being assisted by other investigators from within the State Crime Command. Detectives have been conducting detailed interviews with former patients and health professionals, and following other lines of inquiry stemming from those interviews. The welfare and wellbeing of each of the former patients is of primary concern to the New South Wales Police Force, as I am sure it is to the Department of Health, and more specifically to the detectives attached to Strike Force Tarella. I am informed that counselling and support services have been and continue to be made available. Detectives are acutely sensitive to maintaining the dignity of each and every patient involved in this investigation, and have established clear communication lines to patient support groups.

    To protect those affected people whose matters are the subject of investigation no details of individuals or their circumstances will be released, and rightly so. Generally in investigations of historical circumstances such as this all evidence needs to be legally gathered and assessed by police. All that has to be done prior to consideration being given to any action, such as the laying of charges or seeking an interview with a person of interest. Failure to follow this process can seriously jeopardise a criminal investigation. The priority now is for those investigations to be allowed to be carried out without the interference of individuals such as the pathetic rabble opposite.

    Mr Andrew Constance: Point of order: I seek a withdrawal of the remark that we might be interfering with a police investigation.

    Mr DAVID CAMPBELL: To the point of order: There was no comment of that nature. I will repeat what I said: The priority now is for those investigations to be allowed to be carried out without the interference of individuals such as the pathetic rabble opposite.

    Mr Andrew Constance: Further to the point or order: Again I ask that the statement that implies that the Opposition is interfering with a police investigation be withdrawn.

    Mr DAVID CAMPBELL: A very old saying from my Nan is: If the cap fits wear it. If Opposition members can throw it but cannot take it I will withdraw the remark so that they do not cry. The bald-faced ambulance chasing and the stumbling political point scoring of the shadow Minister for Health stand in stark contrast to the determined efforts of the Minister for Health to acknowledge the faults in the selection process, to hold to account those who fail to follow proper process, to ensure a proper investigation and to design and implement best practice policies and procedures to learn from this sorry saga. But, most importantly, the Minister has sought to maintain the dignity and privacy of the individual women who have been mistreated so badly.

    A nuisance motion such as this does nothing to add value to that determined approach to better public policy and improved service delivery. A nonsense motion such as this shows up the weak and pathetic rabble that masquerade as the Opposition. It contrasts absolutely with the determined processes of this Government to learn from this saga, to do its best to support the women involved and to ensure a more robust system is put in place so that such instances will not occur with any other patient.

    Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE (Bega) [8.55 p.m.]: This debate has been very interesting. Tonight some women are at home in bed, in pain. Their life expectancy is reduced because their fallopian tubes have been cut by this monster. They live life constantly in pain because of what has happened, both psychologically and physically, to them. I have heard many stories of women being sewn up and their genitals having been mutilated. On 26 September when I spoke in relation to this matter in this House I did so after consultation with Carolyn Dewaegeneire. At that time I did not reveal her name but had the expressed wishes of Carolyn in the hope that the Minister for Health would launch an investigation into Dr Graeme Reeves.

    That was key at that time because Dr Reeves had come off a three-year suspension and could practise again. What happened? The Minister in the chair on that day did not speak to the Minister for Health, who obviously did not watch the proceedings in the House. Labor Party members did not refer the serious matter that was raised in the Chamber to the Minister. I graphically spelt out the story of Carolyn. She is, without doubt, one of the bravest women this State will ever see.

    Mr Barry O'Farrell: A hero.

    Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE: That is right, she is the hero in this matter, and history will record that. My point is that in September I expected a response.

    Mr Michael Daley: Did you write a letter that day to the Minister?

    Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE: I gave a speech in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly.

    Mr Michael Daley: You didn't write a letter and you didn't make a phone call?

    Mr Brad Hazzard: Point of order: At least on 20 occasions Mr Speaker has asked Labor Party members to desist from making a noise and indicated very clearly to one or two of them, whom I will not name at this point, that he may consider removing them from the Chamber. Standing Order 52, particularly in the context of such a serious debate, states:
        When a Member is speaking other Members shall not converse or make any noise or disturbance.
    I ask you, in accordance with Standing Order 49, which states that "The Speaker shall maintain order in the House", to ensure that those two members—they know who they are—desist and allow this extremely sensitive matter to be heard.

    ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Mr Grant McBride): Order! I call the member for Bega.

    Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE: One of the reasons I gave that speech in this House was because I could speak under privilege. I will not write to the Minister for Health. I delivered a speech and she should have responded. When the Minister for Health failed to act it became apparent that nothing was going to be done. What did Carolyn Dewaegeneire do? She then secured the interest of Ross Coulthart with Lorraine Long from the Medical Error Action Group and Channel 9's Sunday program. The story aired in February and then all of a sudden the Minister for Health responded. As a result of that horrific story more women came forward with allegations and a police investigation was launched. All of a sudden the State Government introduced legislation to make changes to the Medical Practice Act. It was all because of the media, not because of my speech in this Chamber on behalf of a woman who had been mutilated by this man. I encourage all members to read Hansard of 6 March, when the Minister for Health said:
        I am not going to make any excuses for the Southern Area Health Service. It failed to perform background checks on a candidate who the Medical Tribunal found lied and cheated his way into a job.
    When the called for papers were produced to the New South Wales Legislative Council it was established that a criminal check and a referees check were done on Graeme Reeves by the then Deputy Director of Clinical Services at the Southern Area Health Service, Dr Jon Mortimer. He is now the Deputy Director of Clinical Services for the Greater Southern Area Health Service and is on full pay and currently is under suspension. My point is that that statement alone, that no background checks were performed, misled the House, the women involved and the community. The referees check undertaken by Dr Jon Mortimer, which involved a phone call and subsequent written note, is horrific. It states that the doctor is okay when normal. It states that he is not meant to practise obstetrics. That was written down two days before Dr Reeves' contract was signed, not, as stated this evening, afterwards. It was signed two days before.

    The Minister for Health has misled the House not only in relation to the statement about Dr Reeves' background check but also in relation to the referees check. I appeal to the Premier to sack the Minister for Health. He must stand her down because what has occurred is a tragedy. The Minister for Health did not respond to a private member's statement of a serious nature until the issue blew up in the media. I cannot explain what must have occurred for the Minister to not get the facts and deliver them accurately and appropriately in the House. I do not understand that process. No-one can understand the incompetence on that point. I guess that is the crux of the matter: it goes to the heart of the matter.

    All members know the requirements for parliamentary practice and for accountability by Ministers. It is particularly alarming that women across the State who are experiencing incredible pain, pain which they will have for the rest of their life, are not able to ascertain accurate and timely information about the appointment process of Dr Graeme Reeves. Tonight the Minister quoted selectively from Deirdre O'Connor's report. Had the Minister quoted further she would have pointed out that there have been systemic failures in the disciplinary and dismissal process of Dr Graeme Reeves. On 10 January 2003 the area health service suspended Dr Reeves only to reappoint and reinstate him on the same day. That was at the time of the alleged criminal actions—the mutilations and the sexual assaults. Yet he was suspended and reinstated on the same day.

    Did the Minister for Health tell us why that happened? No. What did happen? Dr Jon Mortimer was suspended, on full pay. Denise Robinson has left the health system, without explanation. At every step of the way there has been frustration, caused by a government that is more committed to protecting its reputation than getting to the bottom of these tragic events. The tragedy will continue to unfold. Women continue to come forward. Women were too scared to own up to their partners, their husbands, their families, and their communities, about what happened to them. But other brave, determined women have come forward and laid it on the line.
    On the same day that these women's cases were laid on the line in this place in the hope that they would get answers from the Minister for Health the best that the Government could do was to send a press secretary to the gallery with a letter from the doctors to Grattan Wilson, the chair of the area health service at the time, in an attempt to put the focus back onto the doctors and not on the Government. Earlier the Leader of the Opposition said that the debate has focused on the medical profession, not on the conduct of the Government. Because of that the women have not been given answers. The actions of the Minister were very serious and that is why I support the motion. I do so as a local member who is standing up for and representing the women who have been harmed by Dr Graeme Reeves.
    I am sure the vote will go in the Government's favour, but I ask all members opposite to consider what they might think about the conduct of the Minister if their wife, their mother or their grandmother wanted answers about what the hell went on. I appeal to the Premier to dismiss the Minister for Health, because that is the right thing to do. I am surprised and disappointed that the Minister for Climate Change and the Environment, Minister for Women, Minister for Science and Medical Research, and Minister Assisting the Minister for Health (Cancer) is laughing. She produces a lot better outcomes than many Ministers in this place. This is no laughing matter, Minister.
    I have pleaded with the Government. I wrote to the Premier on 18 March 2008 via facsimile from my office asking for an independent councillor to be appointed to provide trauma support to those women. That request did not emanate from me; it came directly from the women and some of their friends, because they are living in pain and they are depressed and traumatised. Some of them do not want to have to ring a hotline number to obtain telephone counselling; they do not want to disclose some private information about what had occurred to them to the Government that is now going to address compensation—the same Government that has to take responsibility for appointing Dr Graeme Reeves in the first place. They want someone independent, someone on the ground, to whom they can talk face to face.

    Currently the women cannot form a victims support network because the police investigation and, I hope, subsequent criminal charges, prevent that occurring. Many of them are living in isolation, and that is why I pleaded with the Minister for Health to provide independent trauma counselling—it is needed. Again, I plead with members opposite to reconsider their position in relation to this matter. I hope that internally in the Labor Party the Premier produces the right outcome. Members on this side of the House believe that Reba Meagher has misled Parliament. That is very clear from her own statements.

        Ms VERITY FIRTH (Balmain—Minister for Climate Change and the Environment, Minister for Women, Minister for Science and Medical Research, and Minister Assisting the Minister for Health (Cancer)) [9.08 p.m.]: This attack on Minister Meagher seeks to insinuate that the New South Wales Health system is not capable of delivering the highest quality of care to our community. The series of accounts that have surfaced in recent months with regard to the conduct of Dr Graeme Reeves have been disturbing in the extreme. No-one on either side of the House would disagree with that. We are all appalled about the alleged treatment of women patients by Dr Reeves. Of course, I extend my sympathies to the women who have allegedly suffered such terrible abuse.
    That the patients who have allegedly been sexually assaulted and abused were seeking obstetric and gynaecological care—a particularly sensitive health care issue for women—adds an even more disturbing dimension. But that situation is not made better by the Opposition politicising the issue. The Minister has indicated that she is acting to fix the systemic issue that this situation exposed—ensuring that the situation will not happen again. That is action from the Minister, compared with the motion from the Opposition that will bring no joy to anyone, and which advances this issue not one bit.

    The Opposition has failed to make the case that this terrible series of incidents is representative of the state of our public health system. Our public health system is delivering world-class results every day. For example, I can report to the House that in the area of cancer care and control the New South Wales health system is a world leader, delivering results equal to or better than almost any comparable jurisdiction worldwide. The five-year survival rate for cancer in New South Wales is 63 per cent—better than in Victoria and in New Zealand and better than in Australia as a whole.

    Mr Brad Hazzard: Point of order: Quite apart from the fact that what the Minister is doing is demeaning to the women involved in the serious issue we are discussing tonight, I ask you to point out to the Minister that the motion does not refer to the health system as such. It refers to the Minister for Health misleading the Parliament on 6 March. It is a very clear motion. The Minister is now going well outside defending the Minister for Health by talking about the health department. If she has nothing to say in defence of the Minister she should sit down and not say anything. She should not talk about the health department. It is not within the leave of the motion.

    ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Mr Grant McBride): Order! I call the Minister.

    Ms VERITY FIRTH: This is absolutely defending the Minister because it is about—

    Mr Barry O'Farrell: Point of order: Can you please rule on the point of order that was just taken because it is an important one that relates to the motion before the House? Do you remember it?

    ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Mr Grant McBride): Order! Yes. The Minister at the table is talking about health and the responsibilities of the Minister for Health. If you want to narrow it down specifically—

    Mr Barry O'Farrell: Can I acquaint you with the motion?

    Mr Frank Terenzini: It did not stop you from talking about other things.

    Mr Barry O'Farrell: It did not stop you from taking a point of order if you wanted to.

    ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Mr Grant McBride): Order! I call on the Minister to continue.

    Mr Barry O'Farrell: Point of order: Are you telling me that in light of a motion that is clearly crafted in relation to a specific incident by the Minister for Health in this Chamber on 6 March you will allow the Minister for Health (Cancer) to make a broad-ranging, across the board defence of the Department of Health? Is that what you are saying, because we are happy to move dissent from your ruling right now.

    Mr Michael Daley: Point of order: Paragraph (2) of the motion seeks in effect to censure the Minister for Health for failing to respond to alleged community concerns about Dr Reeves. Implicit in that paragraph is an allegation by the Opposition that there has been an undermining of public confidence in the health system in New South Wales. It is quite implicit, and therefore the Minister is in order to embark upon the discourse to which she has committed herself.

    ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Mr Grant McBride): Order! In regard to the point of order taken by the Leader of the Opposition, paragraph (1) of the motion states that checks were not conducted on Dr Reeves before he was employed despite a health department memo confirming a check was conducted by at least one senior bureaucrat. In my view the motion extends to the Department of Health.

    Mr Andrew Fraser: Point of order: I draw your attention to the motion before the House, which refers to misleading Parliament on 6 March 2008, when the Minister for Health claimed background checks were not conducted on Dr Graeme Reeves before he was employed. The Minister at the table—Mr Assistant Speaker, I hope you are listening to me and not the Clerk—wants to tell us about how good the cancer care units are in New South Wales. I am quite happy to take that up as a separate debate on behalf of the people of the Coffs Harbour electorate at any time. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament are expected to offer their resignation. Ministers should also be as open as possible in Parliament. The Minister who is the subject of this motion has clearly misled Parliament. The Minister who is responding to the motion is clearly drawing the debate away to cancer care in New South Wales. It has absolutely nothing to do with the substance of the motion before the House. I ask you to draw the Minister back to the leave of the debate. She can defend the Minister against the charge of misleading the House but she cannot expand the debate to cover cancer care in New South Wales. I am quite happy to take up that debate at any time and give examples in my electorate of the lack of cancer care.

    ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Mr Grant McBride): Order! As this is not a narrow debate the Minister's remarks should be generally relevant to the motion. I ask her to return to the terms of the motion.

    Ms VERITY FIRTH: I place on record that this motion refers to the Minister for Health and her competence and achievements in her portfolio. Part of the motion is about failing to respond to community concerns. My argument is that she very realistically responds to community concerns when she fights for her budget and delivers real health outcomes for the people of New South Wales. It is interesting that the Opposition does not want to hear me talk about cancer care in New South Wales. That is because it has been an overwhelming success and because the Minister for Health has been able to deliver to the budget greater expenditure than ever allowed—

    Mr Andrew Fraser: Point of order: Mr Assistant Speaker, you have clearly indicated that the Minister should come back to the motion under debate. Nowhere in the motion is cancer care mentioned. It does mention the Minister's misleading Parliament and failing to respond to community concerns about Dr Reeves, not cancer care in this State. I remind you, Mr Assistant Speaker, and the Minister at the table that what the Minister is saying is insulting to the women who have been mutilated by this doctor. It is insulting that the Government has put up the Minister to defend the Minister for Health by pretending that cancer care is the issue. This is about obstetrics; it has nothing to do with cancer care. What the Minister is putting forward as a defence is totally outside the leave of the motion. I ask you to draw the Minister back to the motion.

    ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Mr Grant McBride): Order! As I said before, the Minister's remarks should be generally relevant to the motion.

    Ms VERITY FIRTH: The Minister did not mislead the House. Members opposite accuse us of all sorts of tricks and debating techniques at a time when the Opposition is politicising an issue of deep significance to those women. How dare the Opposition say that we do not care about these women. The Opposition is politicising this issue in a way that does not give those women any joy or comfort and that delivers no outcomes for them. The Minister has seen the situation exposed, has addressed the issue and has ensured that it will not happen again. The defence we are mounting today relates to the Minister's ability to deliver for the health system of New South Wales and to respond to significant health issues as they arise.

    There is absolutely no way that this Minister misled Parliament. We have said it time and again. The Opposition is politicising this matter to a ridiculous degree. I will give members one instance in which she did not in any way mislead Parliament. She has demonstrated her commitment to a strong public health system by the very real budget commitments made today. In the face of unprecedented demand on our public health system the Minister for Health and the Iemma Government are proud that they are continuing to deliver some of the best outcomes for patients in the world. The Government is responding to community concerns that were raised in this motion. We are responding—

    Mr John Williams: Point of order: We have listened to debate on this no-confidence motion and we listened to the earlier contribution of the Minister for Police. We are clear on the motion that is being debated today. We are not looking for a character reference for the Minister for Health; we are talking about a clearly stated set of timelines. The Minister lied about those timelines. That is the issue we are debating tonight.

    ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Mr Grant McBride): Order! As the character of the Minister for Health is being debated comments in regard to the character of the Minister for Health are appropriate.

    Ms VERITY FIRTH: Opposition members do not talk about the latitude that they have been given to rip apart the character of the Minister.

    [Interruption]

    Opposition members should talk about that. They are trying to rip apart the character and good name of a woman who has fought hard for the public health system in New South Wales. Earlier today I listened closely to the Treasurer delivering his Budget Speech. I listened even more closely when he outlined the Premier's priorities for this budget. For the record, they included: Aboriginal health, emergency departments, child protection, mental health and disability.

    Mr Andrew Constance: Point of order: Could you explain to the House what today's budget for Aboriginal health, mental health and cancer care has to do with a motion relating to Dr Graeme Reeves? This crap will insult women who read this debate. I hope you can fix it up.

    ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Mr Grant McBride): In response to the point of order taken by the member for Murray-Darling I ruled that as the character of the Minister is in a no-confidence motion it is appropriate to refer to the character of the Minister. Provided the Minister's remarks are generally relevant to the motion she may continue.

    Ms VERITY FIRTH: Members will note how many of the things that were outlined in today's budget relate to health. Money flowing to these areas includes a record health budget of $13.2 billion, up 5 per cent, in response to community concerns. More importantly, $1.1 billion was allocated for mental health. I do not want to give away to the Opposition too many secrets about how government works. However, one of the real tests of a Minister is how he or she argues for funding for his or her portfolio area in government. On that measure the Minister for Health is a Minister that Opposition members would like in their corner.

    Mr Brad Hazzard: Point of order—

    ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Ms Alison Megarrity): Order! What is the member's point of order?

    Mr Brad Hazzard: Under Standing Order 49 it is incumbent on you to keep order in the House. This no-confidence motion in the Minister for Health arose as a result of a specific set of circumstances. Let me read it to you.

    ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Ms Alison Megarrity): Order! I remind you that other speakers have been heard in silence and with far less interruption. Are you simply re-reading the motion at the moment?

    Mr Brad Hazzard: Hopefully, I am explaining to you why I am taking a point of order.

    ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Ms Alison Megarrity): Order! Printed copies of the motion are before us. What is the point of order?

    Mr Brad Hazzard: If you are that astute you can certainly read it. By definition, a no-confidence motion is a no-confidence motion in a Minister. We just heard from a Minister who, I acknowledge, is fairly new to this Chamber. She has never been through a no-confidence motion.

    ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Ms Alison Megarrity): Order! Stick to the point, please.

    Mr Brad Hazzard: The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment has no experience in this matter, but you have had experience. You are in the chair. Under Standing Order 49—

    ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Ms Alison Megarrity): What is your point of order?

    Mr Brad Hazzard: Under Standing Order 49 you are bound to direct her to come back to the leave of the motion. She talked about Mr Costa, Treasury and everything else and has not defended the Minister for Health. I ask you to bring her back to a topic that is significant for a lot of women in this State.

    ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Ms Alison Megarrity): Order! I have heard enough on the point of order. The point of order seems to relate closely to ones that have previously been raised. The ruling of the Assistant-Speaker who was previously in the chair was that the Minister's remarks must be generally relevant to what is being discussed. Former Speaker Rozzoli ruled that these debates can have fairly wide latitude. However, the rules of relevance continue to apply. With that in mind I ask the Minister to continue. I ask all members of the House to hear her in silence in the time that she has left because others have been afforded that opportunity.

    Ms VERITY FIRTH: The Minister for Health stated earlier tonight that she has not misled the Parliament. We on this side of the Chamber support our Minister. We support a Minister who has increased the health budget by 5 per cent this year. We support a Minister who has delivered to the New South Wales health system on this issue. We defend our Minister for Health who responded to community concerns about Dr Reeves, called for an inquiry, and delivered on the recommendations of that inquiry. That is a much more positive response than the response of Opposition members who have politicised in the most blatant and brutal way what has happened to these women.

    Mr Andrew Constance: How juvenile!

    Ms VERITY FIRTH: Opposition members are the ones who are juvenile. They have wasted the time of this House by trivialising and politicising an incredibly important issue rather than supporting the Government in sorting out and resolving it once and for all. This Minister, who has responded to these concerns, has not misled the Parliament. We stand in her defence.

    Mr Barry O'Farrell: As I understand it, the Minister is due to respond and then I will reply to debate on the no-confidence motion. Is that not the way it goes? She missed her call last time. I am trying to check where she is this time.

    ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Ms Alison Megarrity): Order! The Minister does not have to respond at this point.

        Mr BARRY O'FARRELL (Ku-ring-gai—Leader of the Opposition) [9.26 p.m.], in reply: I am pleased to have an opportunity to sum up debate on this no-confidence motion. I note for the record that, just as the Minister for Health failed to appear at the commencement of this no-confidence motion, she has again refused to defend herself. I presume that is because the Minister for Police and the Minister for Climate Change and the Environment put up the only defence that could be put up by the other side. I was fascinated by the absence of any defence to the charge made against the Minister for Health, which is that on 6 March she misled the House.
    The police Minister waxed eloquently about the police investigation of this issue. In fact, he sought to use that police investigation somehow or other to cast aspersions on people in this House and outside this House and he had to be called to order. As the member for Broken Hill said, the Minister for Climate Change and the Environment was more interested in discussing everything other than the motion before the House. The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment does herself no good in this Chamber by describing this motion as a waste of time. No-confidence motions are not moved very often.
    The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment thought it was a waste of time to ensure that things that were said in this House were honest. Ministers can tell lies, mislead the House, be mendacious and engage in perjury, falsehoods or fraud—a much lower standard of ethics and professionalism than I thought she had. I do not know whether the Minister for Health is now in the Chamber because she missed her opportunity to speak again in debate on this motion. As we were reminded at the commencement of debate on this motion, the speaking order is very clear. The defence of the Minister for Health was appalling.
    The one issue on which there is no disagreement on either side of the House is that Dr Reeves lied in relation to his application. It is not a matter for dispute or argument. The member for Bega, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and I have never contradicted that, and I am not aware of anyone who has done so. The crux of the Minister's defence was that because Dr Reeves had lied it took the pressure off her lie on 6 March. Minister, two wrongs do not make a right. A little earlier I had an eight-year-old child in my room who understood that. It is time that the Minister for Health also understood it. It is simply disgusting that the Minister for Health accused Opposition members of seeking to quote selectively from documents when she could not honestly or accurately quote from a report presented by Justice Deirdre O'Connor on this matter.
      The motion before the House is explicit. It goes to the fact that on 6 March the Minister for Health said in this House that the Southern Area Health Service undertook no background checks prior to the appointment of Dr Graeme Reeves. I am happy to read it again from the Hansard—the exact quote is that the Southern Area Health Service failed to undertake background checks before the candidate was appointed. The production of documents in the upper House, the documents produced in the week commencing 12 May, demonstrate, even according to the Minister's own comments in this debate, that before he was contracted to the Southern Area Health Service Dr Jon Mortimer had undertaken a background check, had undertaken a reference check, and that reference check said "not to do obstetrics". Yet this bloke was being employed in the position of obstetrician and gynaecologist in the Southern Area Health Service.

      Dr Mortimer's note came to light during the week commencing 12 May. Last Thursday Justice Deirdre O'Connor's report was tabled in the Legislative Council and in her report she refers to the senior clinician, Dr Jon Mortimer, who undertook a reference check. I only went to a middle level Catholic school. I understand what misleading the House is. I understand what telling a lie is. I understand that when you are accused of saying one thing and the truth is something else that you have told a lie. The Minister came into this place on 6 March and said something that now has been proven to be untrue from two sources—Justice O'Connor and the tabled papers, including Dr Mortimer's handwritten diary note made before Dr Reeves was contracted to the Southern Area Health Service. By any standards the Minister should have come into this place tonight and resigned her commission as a Minister.

      As I said earlier, if the Minister for Health had any shred of decency she would have come in at the start of question time today and on the basis of justice O'Connor's report, which was released only five days ago, sought to apologise for her actions. As I sat here listening to the Minister for Climate Change and the Environment talk about a range of issues the interesting point was that this issue was not just about deception of the House on 6 March; it was about Labor's failure to tackle issues, even issues as important as this, until they come to the media's attention. That goes to the actions of the member for Bega in September last year when in this Chamber he referred to the case of a particular victim. He stood at this very rostrum and made a plea for an investigation.

      As has been said a couple of times, it surprised me that something as horrific in its reading again today as it must have been in its telling when the member for Bega spoke on 26 September 2007 did not automatically signal problems to the Minister for Health or to members of the Labor Party, which were then relayed to the Minister for Health. I checked the Hansard to see who was the Minister in the chair during private members' statements that day. I regret to say that it was the Minister for Emergency Services, and Minister for Water. If I had been sitting in this Chamber and heard the speech of the member for Bega I would have been appalled as an Opposition member. I cannot imagine how I would have felt if I were a Minister in a Cabinet responsible for a health system into which the Government had been urged to undertake an inquiry because women had been mutilated by a doctor working in the Government's area health service, and the issue had been raised because his suspension was about to expire and he could be employed by other area health services.

      Ms Reba Meagher: Which you knew about since April 2006.

      Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I hear some utterances from the other side. If the Minister could have organised herself to be down here on time, she could have had half an hour to defend herself a second time. She could have used the opportunity the Minister for Police failed to use successfully in trying to defend her.

      Ms Reba Meagher: You lied about the number of speakers you had in this debate.

      Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: The Speaker previously ruled that the expression used twice then by the Minister for Health was unparliamentary. I seek its withdrawal.

      Ms Reba Meagher: You bandied it around with cavalier indifference.

      Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Reba, if you want to drink upstairs quietly, do it yourself. I want a withdrawal.

      Ms Reba Meagher: I want that comment withdrawn. That is an absolute disgrace.

      ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Ms Alison Megarrity): Order! One member at a time will speak.

      Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: You withdraw yours first.

      Ms Reba Meagher: That is really low. In fact, there has been quite a lot of low stuff coming from the Opposition this evening. My point of order is this: I want that comment withdrawn. It is unparliamentary, it is unfair and it is quite disgraceful.

      Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I ask for a withdrawal of the comment that the Speaker ruled earlier was unparliamentary. I will then happily withdraw the comment I made about the Minister.

      ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Ms Alison Megarrity): Order! Does the Minister withdraw her remark?

      Ms Reba Meagher: It is unusual that withdrawals would be conditional, but I will make this point. The Opposition signalled that it had an additional speaker before its right of reply and that was not a situation that has been honoured. It may be a lie or it may not be. Only members of the House who witnessed that performance could make a determination for themselves.

      ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Ms Alison Megarrity): Order! Does the Leader of the Opposition now withdraw his remark?

      Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Absolutely. I am astounded. When I was watching the debate upstairs and listening to the Minister for Police I noticed that this was the first time in all the time I have been associated with this Chamber that I had ever seen more people in the Chamber when the Minister for Police was speaking to one of these motions than when the Minister under attack was speaking.

      Ms Reba Meagher: Do you have a point or are you just filling in time? You're going round and round. There is nothing new.

      ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Ms Alison Megarrity): Order! The Leader of the Opposition will continue.

      Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: This is my speech. The second point is that this is the first time I have seen a Minister not only nearly miss the call to speak the first time, but also fail to sit through the entire debate on a motion of no confidence. As a result, the Minister lost her opportunity to provide a 30-minute response. The third point is that before question time today the Opposition indicated, when asked by the Leader of the House, that it had three speakers to the motion.

      Ms Reba Meagher: No, you said there were three others.

      Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: If the Minister for Health knew the standing orders, she would know they provide for two speakers from each side. We asked that the member for Bega be allowed to participate. Because the Minister for Health did not think it was important enough to sit through this debate, she now has a sore head because she missed her spot. No amount of diversion is going to take away from the simple fact that on 6 March she came in here and sought to deflect political attention by telling an untruth. On 6 March she came in here and sought to deliberately mislead the public. She came in here on 6 March and said something that was untruthful.

      By any measure she came in here on 6 March and dealt doubly with the truth in relation to the public. That sort of mendacity has no place in politics. I say again: I am surprised that the Minister for Climate Change and the Environment thinks that trying to ensure that a Minister tells the truth in this place is, to use her words, "a waste of time." I am surprised that anyone opposite would seek to defend a Minister telling untruths about a case as horrific as that unveiled about patients who were mistreated by Dr Graeme Reeves. Perhaps that explains why both the Minister for Police and the Minister for Climate Change and the Environment were not prepared to do so. The Minister for Health sought in her contribution to suggest that somehow or another the censure motion is a distraction brought forward by the Opposition because we do not have any policies. I assure the Minister for Health of one thing: the Coalition has a policy of telling the truth and a policy of honesty that she would do well to follow.

      Ms Reba Meagher: Point of order: The Leader of the Opposition has not told the truth in this place. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition received a 13-page facsimile about this matter in April 2006.

      Mrs Jillian Skinner: I did not.

      Ms Reba Meagher: And she sat on it. We have the facsimile transmission receipt, so when it comes to who is telling porkies in this place, the Opposition stands condemned.

      ASSISTANT-SPEAKER (Ms Alison Megarrity): Order! There is no point of order.

      Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I am delighted that finally we see some passion from the Minister for Health, but during her speech we have seen no defence or explanation of her attempts to redefine the issue. We are not talking about just any background checks; we are talking about a background check with the Medical Board. The Minister was not prepared, when she had a chance to speak, to apologise for her misstatement, untruth, falsehood or lie—whatever we want to call it. Instead she sought to do again what she is good at—dissemble. She sought to redefine what she said on 6 March to suggest that the area health service had not undertaken the appropriate background check, which is a check with the Medical Board.

      Justice Deirdre O'Connor found that not only was there a reference check by John Mortimer, which is something that the Minister still disputes, but that there was also a criminal record check. Two background checks were carried out on 2 May, yet the Minister's clear statement on 6 March was that no background checks were undertaken and that is why the problem arose. The position cannot be clearer. It must be clear even to the Minister. The Opposition contends that, because of the seriousness of the matters and the Minister's complete unfitness for her role, which she again demonstrated during this debate by her lack of preparedness to do the right thing despite the report by Deirdre O'Connor confirming the Opposition's claims, the Minister should go.

          Question—That the motion be agreed to—put.

          The House divided.
      Ayes, 32
          Mr Aplin
          Mr Baird
          Mr Baumann
          Ms Berejiklian
          Mr Cansdell
          Mr Constance
          Mr Fraser
          Ms Goward
          Mrs Hancock
          Mr Hazzard
          Ms Hodgkinson
          Mr Humphries
          Mr Kerr
          Mr Merton
          Mr Oakeshott
          Mr O'Dea
          Mr O'Farrell
          Mr Page
          Mr Piccoli
          Mr Provest
          Mr Richardson
          Mr Roberts
          Mrs Skinner
          Mr Smith
          Mr Souris
          Mr Stoner
          Mr J. H. Turner
          Mr R. W. Turner
          Mr J. D. Williams
          Mr R. C. Williams
          Tellers,
          Mr George
          Mr Maguire
      Noes, 50
          Mr Amery
          Ms Andrews
          Ms Beamer
          Mr Borger
          Mr Brown
          Ms Burney
          Mr Campbell
          Mr Collier
          Mr Coombs
          Mr Corrigan
          Mr Costa
          Mr Daley
          Ms D'Amore
          Mr Draper
          Mrs Fardell
          Ms Firth
          Mr Greene
          Mr Harris
          Ms Hay
          Mr Hickey
          Ms Hornery
          Ms Judge
          Ms Keneally
          Mr Khoshaba
          Mr Koperberg
          Mr Lynch
          Mr McBride
          Dr McDonald
          Ms McKay
          Mr McLeay
          Ms McMahon
          Ms Meagher
          Ms Megarrity
          Ms Moore
          Mr Morris
          Mrs Paluzzano
          Mr Pearce
          Mrs Perry
          Mr Piper
          Mr Rees
          Mr Sartor
          Mr Shearan
          Mr Stewart
          Ms Tebbutt
          Mr Terenzini
          Mr Tripodi
          Mr Watkins
          Mr Whan
          Tellers,
          Mr Ashton
          Mr Martin
      Pairs

      Ms BurtonMr Hartcher
      Ms GadielMr Stokes
      Question resolved in the negative.

      Motion negatived.