SOPHIE Mirabella says a $10 million commitment to Wangarattta’s public hospital was not an election allocation from her party, but rather was to be a personal pledge she would seek to deliver through strong advocacy.
The Liberal candidate for Indi has unwittingly grabbed national attention by her comments during a live Sky News broadcast at Wangaratta’s Pinsent Hotel on Thursday night.
The broadcast by host Paul Murray had proved an entertaining, and at times emotive forum as Mrs Mirabella and independent incumbent Cathy McGowan (MHR, Indi) engaged with the host and each other, but things stepped up a notch when Mrs Mirabella responded to a question from Northeast Health Wangaratta (NHW) board chairperson Brendan Schutt.
He sought, and got a strong endorsement of ongoing support from both Mrs Mirabella and Ms McGowan, for NHW’s proposed $22m redevelopment plans, with Mrs Mirabella offering this:
“I had a commitment for a $10 million allocation to the Wangaratta hospital that, if elected, I was going to announce the week after the election,” Mrs Mirabella told the 100 strong crowd, and national audience.
“That is $10 million that Wangaratta hasn’t had because Cathy (McGowan) got elected.
“So the question is: who can best deliver that funding in a Turnbull Coalition government?
“It’s about who has the ability and the knowledge and the contacts in government to go to the top of the list. Cathy wasn’t able to do it – I will be.”
The comments drew immediate “shock” from Ms McGowan, and instant rebuke from Greens candidate for Indi, Jenny O’Connor, who said it showed what was wrong with Australian party politics, where “you only get it if you vote for our candidate”.
Ms McGowan on Friday called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Health Minister Sussan Ley to clarify the situation about any funding commitment for Northeat Health Wangaratta in place before the federal election.
Speaking to the Chronicle yesterday, Mrs Mirabella said she had viewed the footage and could understand how her comment could be “misconstrude”.
She said the “$10m commitment” was going to be a personal commitment and wasn’t an election commitment from her party.
Mrs Mirabella said she intended, shortly after her re-election, to announce that securing the $10m for Wangaratta hospital would be her top priority.
“I knew how important this project was for our community and I was determined to make it happen,” she said.
“The point I was making at the forum is that strong advocacy delivers and I am committed to getting funding for the infrastructure and services our region needs if I am elected.”