Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt has clashed with an ABC host over ‘free speech’ in a bizarre interview about gay conversion therapy. Picture: AAP
Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt has clashed with an ABC host over ‘free speech’ in a bizarre interview about gay conversion therapy. Picture: AAP

Minister’s bizarre attack on radio host

HEALTH Minister Greg Hunt has clashed with an ABC presenter in a bizarre interview over gay conversion therapy.

The senior Turnbull Government minister's interview with ABC Radio National host Patricia Karvelas turned heated yesterday when she asked about a controversial plan by a section of Victoria's Liberal party to debate conversion therapy and he fired back with questions about whether she believed in "freedom of speech".

Mr Hunt initially said he did not support the plan to allow doctors to "offer counselling out of same-sex attraction or gender transitioning", which was a motion set to be debated at the upcoming Liberal state council before Victorian Liberal president Michael Kroger stepped in to stop it on Monday.

Mr Hunt also confirmed the federal government would not back the policy before adding that people were "entitled to have different views".

"What I do worry about is this constant view that nobody anywhere is allowed to have a different view - as a journalist, I would hope you would believe in freedom of speech," he said.

Turning the spotlight on his interviewer, Mr Hunt asked whether Ms Karvelas believed in freedom of speech.

She confirmed she did but the minister continued to pursue the issue, asking her to define the concept of free speech and then asking if she was "afraid to stand up for freedom of speech" when she would not.

Health Minister Greg Hunt has clashed with an ABC presenter in a bizarre interview over gay conversion therapy. Picture: AAP
Health Minister Greg Hunt has clashed with an ABC presenter in a bizarre interview over gay conversion therapy. Picture: AAP

He clarified that he did not believe that free speech meant doctors should be allowed to conduct conversion therapy, saying they were "two completely different things".

"Do I think that there should be a practice of doing that? No. Do I think people have the right to have views I disagree with? They are entitled to have views you and I disagree with."

The awkward interview continued after Ms Karvelas thanked the Minister for appearing on her program.

Mr Hunt said it was "disappointing" she had not answered him about free speech and accused her of asking the questions as a "game".

"This is a real discussion about freedom of speech and this was your chance - and I hope you run this in full," he said.

Mr Hunt said he had "no idea" about the background of the proposal from Liberal party members to allow doctors to conduct conversion therapy.

ABC presenter Patricia Karvelas. Picture: Aaron Francis/The Australian
ABC presenter Patricia Karvelas. Picture: Aaron Francis/The Australian

He continued to attack Ms Karvelas after she again confirmed she believed in free speech, and he apparently believed they were no longer on air.

"We're on air right now, I do plan to run this," Ms Karvelas said.

She added that it was "extraordinary" that he had tried to "hijack" the interview.

The Minister accused Ms Karvelas of ambushing him with questions about conversion therapy, saying he had been asked to speak about the Greens' proposal to legalise cannabis.

He ended by saying he was surprised it had taken the host an "extraordinary" amount of time to state her beliefs in free speech.



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