Friday, September 5, 2008

Neal denies flying off handle at Nelson

THE Federal Opposition last night questioned the effectiveness of the behavioural counselling undertaken by the Labor MP Belinda Neal, amid claims she twice confronted the Opposition Leader, Brendan Nelson, in the past week.

In the first instance, last Thursday, Ms Neal is said to have remonstrated with Dr Nelson on a plane, prompting the Deputy Opposition Leader, Julie Bishop, to act as a human shield between the "menacing" MP and her leader.

The second incident allegedly occurred in Parliament House on Tuesday morning, when Ms Neal again approached Dr Nelson.

Ms Neal was upset that Dr Nelson had described her as an "ugly bully" over the June 6 incident at Iguanas in Gosford. She had sent him a letter demanding he retract his comments or face legal action.

The confrontations over the past week involved Ms Neal demanding to know why he had not responded to her letter. Ms Neal told the Herald last night she had sent Dr Nelson a letter "asking him to withdraw his abusive remarks". But the allegations that she had confronted him were "ridiculous".

A spokesman for the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, repeated the warning that should Ms Neal step out of line in the future, she would lose preselection for her Central Coast seat of Robertson. Senior Labor sources said she would struggle to keep her preselection but a final decision could depend on a redistribution of NSW seats late next year.

Mr Rudd first issued the warning on Wednesday, after prosecutors said there was not enough evidence to charge Ms Neal or her husband, John Della Bosca, over the Iguanas incident.

Ms Neal told reporters she had undertaken the counselling as ordered by Mr Rudd, and had learned to deal better with people.

Dr Nelson was not so sure. "I can only conclude that Ms Neal's counselling program still has a little way to go," he said. Ms Bishop said yesterday that after the flight from Canberra to Sydney touched down last Thursday, Dr Nelson had offered to retrieve Ms Neal's hand luggage from the overhead locker. "She then asked Dr Nelson if he had received a letter from her.

"He said that he had not. She said, 'You have got a letter from me, I'm demanding an apology for what you said about me.'

"She was menacing in her tone, she was walking very close to Dr Nelson, so I moved out into the aisle to stand between them."

Ms Neal allegedly walked "very closely" behind Dr Nelson and Ms Bishop as they made their way into the terminal.

When Ms Neal again reportedly confronted Dr Nelson in Parliament this week, he said he had never received the letter but told her he would look for it. Dr Nelson believes she should be sacked.


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