I rise this evening to speak about the legacy of a remarkable woman, Lady Phyllis Cilento. Lady Cilento belonged to one of Australia’s most prominent families. She had a long history of public service. She was a household name in Brisbane—indeed, across Queensland—for almost half a century, where she worked as an obstetrician, a paediatrician, an author, a journalist, a columnist, an ABC broadcaster and a women’s activist. She travelled widely throughout her life in her youth, heading to Britain and Europe in 1919 shortly after the end of the First World War and the Armistice. While in Europe, she travelled through France, Belgium, Holland and Italy. In France, Lady Cilento trekked through the still untouched battlefields of the Great War, an experience that must have been incredibly, profoundly sobering and heart-wrenchingly sombre for her, but one that must have played an indelible role in shaping Lady Cilento’s future endeavours.
Throughout her life, Lady Cilento saved the lives of countless women and children in Papua New Guinea and Malaysia. She pioneered work in public health, nutrition, family planning and child care. She was named the first Queenslander of the Year; was given a lifetime membership of the Australian Medical Association; founded the Mothercraft Association of Queensland and the Queensland branch of the Business and Professional Women’s Club; and was President of the Queensland Medical Women’s Society.
Lady Phyllis Cilento was an absolutely remarkable woman, and she did all of this—she achieved as much as she did—while also raising six children. I, and many Queenslanders, thought it was pretty fitting when, in 2013, the Queensland state government, the then Liberal-National government, chose to recognise Lady Phyllis Cilento’s remarkable legacy of pioneering children’s health care by naming Brisbane’s new children’s hospital after her—an enduring honour to remember the life and works of a pioneer.
It was with great surprise to Queenslanders and, in particular, Lady Cilento’s family when they heard that the Queensland Labor government was in the process of taking the extraordinary step of removing Lady Cilento’s name from the hospital. Why? The Labor health minister claimed this was because Queenslanders didn’t know it was a public hospital and that research grants were hindered because of this, and yet a noble laureate was recently reported in The Australian saying that the ‘Lady Cilento’ name would not stop grants at a national or international level; it would, rather, encourage them. Apparently, a petition was circulated amongst the staff at the hospital which was said to have gathered over a thousand signatures, yet many doctors and nurses at the hospital claim never to have seen the petition and the petition has never been shown to the public. It’s a bit of a farce.
It gets worse. In August this year, the health minister, Steven Miles, launched an online poll—or, as he called it, public consultation—about changing the name. When it closed, the poll had 38,681 votes. Now, 23,982 of those votes had voted yes to changing the hospital’s name. You’d think that was pretty conclusive and perhaps Queenslanders did want to see the hospital name changed, yet this was another Labor stitch-up. The public consultation was a farce. It was a gerrymander from the beginning. Almost 18,000 of those yes votes came from the same 74 IP addresses. Some of those IP addresses voted yes more than 100 times each. Four IP addresses voted yes more than 1,000 times each. And, for those who are beginning to sense a bit of a trend here from Queensland Labor, many of those IP addresses are starkly familiar, even the same as the IP addresses used by Queensland Labor ministerial offices. So the Queensland Labor government’s public consultation into renaming the hospital was rigged from the start.
In a separate poll conducted by the Nurses’ Professional Association of Queensland, 85 per cent of their members wanted Lady Cilento’s name kept by the hospital. In another poll, by The Courier-Mail, 84 per cent of Queenslanders voted against changing the name, and a further Galaxy poll commissioned by Channel 9 only this week revealed that 65 per cent of Queenslanders wanted to keep Lady Cilento’s name. This is a world apart from the rigged Queensland Labor poll, which said that, allegedly, 67 per cent of Queenslanders wanted to get rid of the Lady Cilento name.
Why were Labor doing this? Consider this: the Queensland Labor government first floated the idea of changing the name of the hospital in July this year, yet, upon searching the Australian Securities and Investments Commission database, it turns out that the Lady Cilento name was deregistered by the Queensland Labor government in—wait for it—January this year. So Queensland Labor thought they were being devious. They thought they could be sneaky and deregister the name at the start of the year without anyone noticing and then they realised they needed to justify it, so Queensland held a rigged online poll. They fabricated, they gerrymandered, they lied and they stitched up anything to get the result they wanted. It’s typical Labor: vote early, vote often. It’s another Queensland Labor dodgy deal.
You would think that Labor, being caught out, might not go ahead with this, but they’re still going to push ahead. They’ve been caught out lying and they’re going to spend half a million dollars—on their estimates—on changing the name. That’s another farce. Anyone with a pencil, a piece of paper and a bit of an idea of how to do things in the business world would know it’s going to cost a lot more than that. The cost involved with erecting the hospital’s name included $200,000 per day to rent a crane for three days, plus the cost of the road closure and police supervision. This means that, to remove the old sign and replace it with the new one, it would cost $600,000 for the crane hire alone. That does not take into account the cost of producing the main sign and all the associated signs around the building: the traffic signs; the linen, uniform and stationary; the computer systems, the helipad. Even the board room table will need to be rebranded. Estimates from marketing and branding experts put the actual cost of the entire name-change exercise at between $15 million and $20 million. Words fail me. What a complete waste of money.
Consider this: Labor wasted this money on changing a name when 32 per cent of emergency department patients aren’t seen on time. Twelve per cent of ambulance patients are ramped for 30 minutes. This means ambulances and paramedics cannot be on the road actually doing their jobs. Seventeen per cent of elective surgeries aren’t done on time. The median wait time for elective surgery is 68 days. That’s almost double the statewide average. They’ve spent $15 million on changing the signage rather than fixing up the hospital waiting times. This is a typical example of Labor’s warped priorities. The Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital is one of only three per cent of buildings named after women in Australia. Lady Cilento was an outstanding role model in an era when there were very few high-profession women. It’s symbolic of this arrogant Queensland Labor government that an Australian professional woman’s name is torn down from a public building just to serve their twisted political agenda.
Funnily enough, if you take the fraudulent votes—the people who voted more than once; those double voters, those Labor voters—out of Minister Miles’s own poll, even their own poll shows that 67 per cent were in favour of keeping the name. Minister Miles has been referred to the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission, as he should be.
I think a lot of people will be appalled by the actions of this Labor government—appalled at the renaming of a hospital which was named after an incredible woman whose legacy deserves to be honoured. I’m appalled, and we should all be appalled, that, instead of spending money to make the hospital run more efficiently, they want to throw money into changing the name—money that could be spent looking after our children, money that should be spent looking after our children. We should condemn Queensland Labor. We should condemn the arrogant decision to rig, to gerrymander, to lie, to stitch up and to defraud the public voting on this. We should call upon Queensland Labor and call upon the state government to keep that name, the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital, there to honour someone who did so much for public health in Queensland.