CAMPAIGNERS for a south-west cancer care centre had a win yesterday when federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek bowed to pressure and agreed to meet them.
Less than 24 hours after supporters sent a letter to Prime Minister Julia Gillard urging her to persuade Ms Plibersek to meet Peter’s Project representatives, the health minister announced a meeting would be arranged.
The decision came nine days after The Standard revealed Ms Plibersek had snubbed the campaigners’ request for a meeting, prompting an emotional and angry backlash.
Peter’s Project had written to the minister requesting a meeting so they could make her aware of the widespread community support and compelling case for a centre to be built in Warrnambool, but were bluntly told by a mid-level bureaucrat there was no money available to fund the centre.
A reversal was confirmed late yesterday in a brief statement by the minister.
“I am happy to meet with members of the Peter’s Project. My office will contact them to arrange a meeting,” Ms Plibersek said. Peter’s Project founder Vicki Jellie welcomed the news, saying she hoped to meet with Ms Plibersek in March when project representatives fly to Canberra to push the case with Coalition MP’s.
“We’re pleased that they have reconsidered,” Ms Jellie said.
“It’s an opportunity that we’re very grateful for.”
No date has been set for a meeting.
Ms Jellie said campaigners ideally wanted to speak to the minister before the budget was released in May.
“We’re not going to get a commitment for her in the meeting but we want her to consider the facts of our cause,” she said.
“We want her to understand the pleas of the community in south-west Victoria.”
Member for Wannon Dan Tehan said the announcement was a positive step forward after the group was harshly denied a chance to meet at the table.
“It’s just a shame that it has taken public outrage and a letter to the Prime Minister to have the decision overturned,” Mr Tehan said. “I hope Tanya Plibersek will now understand the importance of the issue to south-west Victorians and is prepared to judge the project on its merits.”
The Wannon MP said he had been in contact with the federal opposition health spokesman Peter Dutton to arrange a meeting for Peter’s Project in March.
He was also arranging meetings with opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey and opposition finance spokesman Andrew Robb, both of whom have met previously with Peter’s Project.
The Coalition has voiced support for Peter’s Project but are yet to back it up with any policy announcements.