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Conservative politician Wilson Tuckey given Australia Day honour

Former Liberal MP Wilson Tuckey has been bestowed the Medal of the Order of Australia in recognition for his “service to the people and Parliament of Australia”.

The award is one of many given to prominent Australia’s as part of the Australia Day celebrations.

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The politician was the Member for O’Connor from 1980 until he lost his seat in 2010, and his political career was filled with offensive comments and controversial moments.

Tuckey served in the Howard government as the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister and Minister for Forestry and Conservation from 1998 until 2001, before being promoted to Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government between 2002 and 2003.

It was during his time as the shadow Health minister in the 1980’s that he made one of his most appalling comments.

In 1988 activists, medical professionals and politicians converged for the Third National Conference on HIV/AIDS. The conference ran from August 4-6.

In his address to delegates Tuckey said AIDS was the result of “unnatural activity”.

“‘AIDS is very much a disease that results from deliberate and possibly unnatural activity. You don’t catch AIDS, you let someone give it to you.” Tuckey said.

Tuckey suggested that rather than spending money on education about HIV it would be more effective to introduce blood tests for HIV among the gay community, comparing it to how motorists are given random tests for alcohol. The politician also questioned why people diagnosed with HIV were allowed to keep their medical condition private.

The speech triggered a wave of discussion on talk-back radio blaming people living with HIV for the spread of the disease. In Perth, The Sunday Times published a controversial opinion piece by shock-jock Howard Sattler which said gay people and intravenous drug users were suffering from their own mistakes.

“It is a case of, if the implication fits wear it. AIDS ‘victims’…who acquired the disease through homosexuality or intravenous drug use, are guilty of a dangerous act which they could have prevented. They also suffer from their own mistakes, unlike their medically acquired counterparts who were fatally misled by a health service they believed was beyond reproach.” Sattler said,

Within a month Tuckey was replaced as the coalition’s spokesperson for health.

The Westside Observer reported on the controversy.   

“Professor John Dwyer, who was attacked by Tuckey at the National Conference on AIDS in Hobart recently, slammed the proposals charging that Tuckey would be responsible for many more Australians dying if funds were diverted from education on a large scale.

“Professor Dwyer also said the proposal was unworkable and that gay men “might as well wear pink triangles” the report reads.

Michelle Kosky, who was Director of WA AIDS Council at the time told The Westside Observer; “I’d like to think that it (Tuckey’s demotion) was due to his remarks at the National Conference but my feeling is that he was an inappropriate person to be the shadow minister for health.”

Tuckey, who is now 88 years old, stayed in parliament until he was defeated at the 2010 election by the Nationals Tony Crook.

The politician gained his nickname ‘Ironbar’ in relation to an assault on an indigenous man in 1967. Tuckey, who was a Carnarvon publican at the time, was convicted of hitting the man with an iron cable. He was fined $50 over the assault.

In 2007 Tuckey was one of a handful of parliamentarians, alongside current Liberal leader Peter Dutton, who chose to boycott the apology to the Stolen Generations.


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