Ashley MacKinnon confronts Federal Richmond MP Justine Elliot at Bangalow about the crippling debt he and his family accrued during his late wife’s cancer treatment.
Ashley MacKinnon confronts Federal Richmond MP Justine Elliot at Bangalow about the crippling debt he and his family accrued during his late wife’s cancer treatment. Jay Cronan

MP Elliot refuses public comment

NOT even Ashley Mackinnon can get Richmond MP Justine Elliot to publicly say what she can do to help him with big medical bills racked up trying to save his wife from cancer.

Ms Elliot’s refusal to answer questions got embarrassing at Bangalow yesterday when she continued to hide behind the Privacy Act, despite Mr Mackinnon personally offering permission for her to discuss the case.

Mr Mackinnon estimates he is about a month away from losing his home thanks to massive medical debts racked up trying to save his wife, Leigh Chapman, from cancer by sending her to the US for GammaKnife and CyberKnife radiotherapy treatments.

Ms Chapman died from liver failure caused by her chemotherapy treatments in 2006, leaving Mr Mackinnon to raise their two children alone while managing their mortgage and medical debts through sole parent benefits and part-time work.

Mr Mackinnon said he applied for help through the Federal Government’s little-known Medical Treatment Overseas Program. But the application and a subsequent appeal were both rejected, despite other people being given funding through the program to use the same treatment. A second application is still being assessed.

The Northern Star has been trying since Monday to get Ms Elliot and Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon to say what they can do to help Mr Mackinnon so he and his children can at least keep the home he and his children shared with Ms Chapman.

Both responded by saying they were unable under the Privacy Act to answer questions about Mr Mackinnon’s case. Ms Elliot said he would have to first provide ‘formal consent’ to the Department of Health and Ageing. In a bid to shortcut that process, Mr Mackinnon, at the invitation of The Northern Star, joined journalists at an interview with Ms Elliot yesterday to personally offer his consent.

It made no difference. With Mr Mackinnon standing only three paces away, Ms Elliot looked down the barrels of two television cameras and declared: “In terms of the Privacy Act and legal provisions I can’t make any comment.”

However, Ms Elliot did agree to speak privately with Mr Mackinnon.

Mr Mackinnon later said he had explained the detail of his case to Ms Elliot and she had agreed to see if there was anything she could do to help.

Ms Elliot had told Mr Mackinnon she would get back to him on Monday.

Gold Coast woman June Rhodes has started an online petition calling on the Federal Government to reverse the decision of the Medical Treatment Overseas Program to refuse funding for Ashley Mackinnon. As of yesterday, the petition had 422 signatures. You can add your voice by going to www.lobbyingforum.com. Run a search for ‘Ash Mackinnon’ and add your name to the petition.



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