Beazley accused of lying over daughter for political advantage

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The Independent Online

Labor opposition leader Kim Beazley, the man expected to be Australia's next prime minister, was fighting against claims Wednesday he had lied about his daughter's treatment at a hospital to gain political mileage.

Beazley had told a party meeting on Tuesday that his daughter, who was suffering from acute appendicitis, had been turned away from a public hospital because they did not have enough staff or beds to operate on her.

Health Minister Michael Wooldridge said on Wednesday that hospital records showed Beazley's daughter had not been turned away, but had been examined by a doctor, treated for pain, and eventually decided herself to go to a private hospital.

Wooldridge said Beazley had lied about his family circumstances to score a cheap political point.

"That is despicable, it calls into question his character, it calls into question his fitness to be leader of the opposition, let alone prime minister," Wooldridge said.

According to opinion polls, health spending is the main issue among Australian voters. Labor hopes to use it against Prime Minister John Howard's government which is seeking a third term at elections expected in November or December.

Beazley agreed his daughter had not been "turned away" by the hospital, but after being told there was no bed immediately available and 16 other people were already awaiting surgery, she had chosen to go to a private hospital.

"It is a reflection on this Howard government and the need for a complete overhaul of the health care system in this country," he said.

The latest opinion poll published on Wednesday showed voter support for Labor at 41 percent, compared with the government at 35 percent.

"If an election were held in the first half of August, the ALP (Australian Labor Party) would have won in a landslide," the Morgan poll said.