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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1997 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 4965..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

They are two businesses that have invested a lot of money in the ACT. It is a bit like the discussion we are having on retail space in the ACT. Let us work out what a population of this size is able to support in terms of private medical care. I was not able to see that that had been undertaken.

The argument that John James could have tendered had they so wished is a spurious argument. They made it quite clear that they did not do that because they did not believe that the need for such a hospital existed in the ACT. Why would they tender to start a new facility which they believed that demand would not be able to keep viable? Obviously, it would not have been sensible for the business to do that. It would have meant that they would have had to close the facility they were already running, which would have cost them a lot of money and not been sensible.

The first recommendation is that we have an independent review to work out the impact of the additional beds. It is just about getting information. The Government has accepted the commercial-in-confidence recommendation. That recommendation has come out of a number of committees in this place recently. There is a lot of support for a review of what we regard as commercial-in-confidence.

The next recommendation is about the Attorney-General requesting the Government Solicitor to examine the contract and other agreements to ensure they comply with trade practices legislation. I do not see how a Liberal government or a Labor government could object to that. Everyone is very keen on ensuring that competition is free, open and fair. There appear to be some concerns that there may be unfair support for this particular business. The other recommendations are mainly about checking on how accountable this is and whether the ACT is actually benefiting from this move.

In respect of recommendation 5, Mrs Carnell said, "Yes, of course, as long as it does not interfere". That is fine.

My main concern from this inquiry was that we did not have enough assessment of the need before it started. It does look to me as though we are now oversupplied and there could be some unfortunate consequences.

MR BERRY (Leader of the Opposition): I seek leave to speak again for a little extra time, just a couple of minutes.

Leave granted.

MR BERRY: Mrs Carnell railed against me in relation to commercial-in-confidence. How I overlooked that in my response I do not know. That was a lapse that I hope is not repeated today. The commercial-in-confidence issue is one of concern, particularly because, in my view, the decision to sign the contracts with the hospital was taken when it was to prevent access to contracts. That was the first time I had ever experienced that happening. There was a motion on the notice paper to consider this issue, and the contracts were signed off that morning to prevent access to them.

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