With speculation about federal Labor’s leadership polluting every angle of the government’s agenda, Parramatta MP Julie Owens tried to refocus debate yesterday.
Ms Owens and Health Minister Tanya Plibersek were at Westmead Millennium Institute to discuss the government’s $10 million package for medical researchers.
But some journalists were more interested in Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s dismal polls in western Sydney.
When one asked Ms Plibersek why the government was particularly ‘‘on the nose in western Sydney’’, the member for Parramatta took the microphone from her senior party member.
‘‘Come on,’’ Ms Owens said, ‘‘we are standing in the biggest medical campus in Australia, standing in the second biggest and one of the best medical research institutes in the country.
‘‘We’ve got people in this place who, if you paid them to stop what they were doing, would be standing in the car park with a test tube working for the benefit of people.
‘‘The work they do actually makes a difference to whether people live or die, whether they have good quality lives or not.
‘‘Quite frankly, I’m in a marginal seat, today is not about whether I’m going to be re-elected or not.
‘‘These people care more about their work and the future of Australians and their health than they do about whether I’m going to be re-elected.’’
The line of questioning continued.
‘‘This affects people’s lives, what we are talking about here today,’’ Ms Owens responded.
‘‘Do you honestly think people out there that are going to watch your bulletin care more about me than they do about the health of their children?
‘‘And you’re going to ask about me instead of their children? Get real.’’
Watch Julie Owens’s response to questions about Labor’s position in western Sydney below:
Not quite back on track, the leadership speculation continued a little further.
When she got to it, Ms Plibersek explained that the the new funding would support growth in a sector under pressure to compete internationally for private investment.
‘‘Clinical trials are essential for evaluating the effectiveness and safety of medications, services and interventions that prevent, detect or treat medical conditions,’’ she said.
‘‘Traditionally our researchers and research outcomes have been strong, however, we are seeing greater international competition from countries investing in clinical research and consequently winning large amounts of private investment.’’