Australian Health minister makes inappropriate comments about Brogden suicide attempt

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Monday, September 5, 2005

Australia's Federal Minister for Health, Tony Abbott, has made a number of comments about the previous New South Wales Australian Liberal Party leader, John Brogden, who recently attempted suicide, which have been widely thought to be inappropriate.

Abbott is reported to have made comments such as "If we did that, we would be as dead as the former Liberal leader's political prospects" and "Whenever you hear that David Clarke is doing bad things, you know he is really doing a great job", referring to the factional leader claimed to have led the campaign against Brogden. The comments were made at a party function approximately twelve hours after Brogden's suicide attempt. Abbott is also reported to have said "I just want to make it clear I have never told an inappropriate joke, I've never pinched a woman on the backside and I never make inappropriate gestures to women" at a Kenthurst Liberal Party branch meeting, in reference to Brogden's reported behaviour at a function approximately two months ago.

There have been calls for Abbott to resign or be sacked by Prime Minister John Howard from some sectors, such as persons involved in mental health care, as well as the Federal Opposition. They claim that the comments show that Abbott is not mindful of mental health issues when they should be foremost in his mind.

The comments were first raised with Abbott by the ABC Insiders program yesterday. He confirmed that he had made the remarks and offered to apologize "if anyone is upset", and later that day made such an apology. The extent of the apology was criticised in the House of Representatives in Federal Parliament that day, with Julia Gillard, the Shadow Health Minister, calling it "half-arsed" during debate on a motion to censure the minister for his comments. The motion was rejected as the Liberal/National coalition form Government federally.

There is suspicion that the tipoff about Abbott's comments was made by a member of the left-wing faction of the Liberal party, of which Brogden was a member, as a form of payback against members of the right-wing faction, of which Tony Abbott is a member. The Liberal right are said to have been involved in the campaign against Brogden.

Sources