21 April 2007

Health Minister Tony Abbott says that recent criticisms of the coalition by the international medical community cannot be taken seriously.

A highly respected international medical journal, The Lancet, has condemned the Howard Government in an article, titled, ‘The Politics of Fear and Neglect’.

The Prime Minister’s recent suggestion that immigrants with HIV should be banned from entering the country, the editorial says, is evidence of Howard’s indifference to the medical research community.

In no uncertain terms the editorial calls for a change of government.

It describes Howard as profoundly intolerant and complacent, and accuses him of inciting cynical politics.

“To any visitor, Australian culture feels progressive and inclusive,” the editorial says. “This attractive exterior belies a strong undercurrent of political conservatism, which Howard is ruthlessly tapping into.”

It points to a political commentator’s observation that a conservative coalition has ruled for 42 of 58 years.

Tony Abbott was also criticised for saying those who spoke up for Indigenous health were “simply establishing politically and morally correct credentials.”

Abbott is the only minister so far to respond to the editorial’s criticism:

“I mean, if Lancet were to say that we still have a long way to go in Indigenous health, sure, I'd be the first to agree, but they have engaged in a bit of gratuitous slag and bag.”

“And this is not a medical judgment they're making, it's a political judgment,” he said.

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