Arts Minister Ros Bates Source: The Courier-Mail
ARTS Minister Ros Bates has issued a statement to explain her absence from parliament this week, saying she is recovering from shoulder surgery and caring for her son Ben Gommers who has been diagnosed with depression.
The statement ends days of conflicting stories from the government about her leave – which began abruptly last Thursday coinciding with the decision by Transport and Main Roads’ Director-General Michael Caltabiano to stand aside over allegations he misinformed parliament about his work history.
Ms Bates and Mr Caltabiano worked together at lobbying firm Entree Vous which was part owned by the Minister and her son Ben Gommers – who is now employed as a senior departmental liaison officer at TMR.
Her office told The Courier-Mail on Friday she was on annual leave, then on Saturday Treasurer Tim Nicholls said Ms Bates had been advised by her surgeon to take two weeks off.
Today Premier Campbell Newman said Ms Bates had been asked by senior Cabinet Ministers to take leave, out of concern for her health and how she was coping with the “extra stress” of recent weeks.
Ms Bates said she had accepted medical advice that she required “further rest” adding that her “attempts to return to work (since surgery on September 13) had been premature”.
“During this period, I’ll be spending time with my son Ben who has been under enormous stress and continued scrutiny from often incorrect and sensational reporting of his chosen career,” said Ms Bates.
“On Monday, October 22 Ben was admitted to hospital to be treated for depression.
Transport and Main Roads Director-General Micahel Caltabiano appears at the Estimates Committee Hearing. Picture: Philip Norrish
“He remains under the care of a specialist.”
She went on to say she would always be “a mother first and an MP and Minister second”.
“His recovery, and my own, will be my current priority,” read the statement.
“I would ask for privacy during this period.”
The admission follows Premier Campbell Newman’s revelation this morning that senior Cabinet Ministers had asked Ms Bates to take leave, out of concern for her health.
He said himself, the Deputy Premier, Treasurer and Attorney-General were very concerned and wanted her to take time off.
“I know (Deputy Premier) Jeff Seeney has for some time wanted her to take some leave,” Mr Newman said.
The Premier said it was not appropriate that he ask Ms Bates about her previous working relationship with Mr Caltabiano – who has denied having any professional experience of Mr Gommers, or even working for Entree Vous, but who was listed on the lobbyists register in 2008 as being employed by Entree Vous – jointly owned by Ms Bates and her son Mr Gommers.
“It is not appropriate that I investigate ourselves,” Mr Newman said.
“The people of Queensland would qutie rightfully say that me investigating the conduct of Mr Caltabiano or Minister Bates was not correct. That’s why I’ve referred it to the Ethics Committee.”
He said he had not spoken to Mr Caltabiano since he stood aside while the Ethics Committee investigates statements he made to the budget estimates hearing.
Mr Newman said if he was found to have committed an offence, he would be expected to repay legal costs currently being funded by taxpayers.