ricardo dominguez on Thu, 12 Jul 2001 20:37:57 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Lecturer charged over uni website in Australia

Lecturer charged over uni website 

Matthew Spencer and Karen Dearne
10 July 2001 

AN academic website protesting against Federal Health Minister Michael
Wooldridge's allegedly close relationship with the pharmaceutical industry
has been shut down by La Trobe University.

The site, established in response to an ABC Four Corners program, claimed
to explore whether Dr Wooldridge had allowed drug companies to hijack
advice to the Government on which drugs to subsidise.

The site was taken down after a background article on it allegedly defamed
Dr Wooldridge, when it referred to him as the "Minister for Pfizer" (a
drug company).

Senior lecturer in the school of public health Ken Harvey, who administers
the site with colleagues from RMIT and Monash universities, has been
charged with serious misconduct by La Trobe. Neither RMIT nor Monash has
taken any action.

Dr Harvey said the "Minister for Pfizer" jibe was coined by ALP health
spokeswoman Jenny Macklin and linked to satirical material on the site
that had been published in newspapers depicting Dr Wooldridge as being in
bed with the health giant.

"I believe the sentence and the hyperlink, taken together, was legitimate
previously published political comment or satire, and not defamation," Dr
Harvey said. "This is where modern universities have got to -- the
managers have taken over."

Rather than asking for the phrase to be removed from the site, La Trobe
dean of health sciences Stephen Duckett spent three weeks seeking legal
opinion before charging Dr Harvey with misconduct, Dr Harvey said.

"If Duckett was seriously trying to eliminate risk of liability, why the
hell did he wait three weeks?" he said.

"He could have just got on the phone and asked for the phrase to be

It is understood Professor Duckett became concerned about a possible
defamation problem on June 15, one day after a letter by former
Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) members Professor Don
Birkett and Martyn Goddard was posted on the site.

The suspended site is now at

This report appears on australianIT.com.au.

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