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Visiting Medical Officers - Contracts

MS McRAE: My question is to Mrs Carnell in her capacity as Health Minister. In the past few weeks, in the lead-up to the budget, we have heard Mrs Carnell say that she is concerned about growing staff numbers. She has talked about freezing the SES, getting value for money and all those matters of concern to her and her alone, I think. I also note the Chief Minister's claim that the ACT Government cannot provide wage outcomes for ACT public sector employees greater than the norm applying in the Commonwealth. So I ask: Why does this not then apply to public sector employees in the hospitals with white coats and stethoscopes, who currently cost the ACT 90 per cent above the national norm?

Mr Humphries: Divide and conquer: There are the good workers and the bad workers!

MRS CARNELL: That is exactly the reason why we have required savings in excess of - in fact, double - the ones that Mr Berry was requiring when the document that I tabled previously when he was Minister for Health - - -

Ms McRae: Mr Connolly was the Minister, not Mr Berry.

MRS CARNELL: Mr Berry was the Minister before that, and, of course, this has been going on for a very long time. We could go through, Minister after Minister. The fact is that the previous Government had absolutely no capacity to solve this dispute. As Mr Connolly often said, the upper - - -

Mr Berry: Mr Speaker, I would like to take a point of order. As Mrs Carnell rose to her feet, Mr Humphries interjected that there were good workers and bad workers. I would like Mr Humphries to withdraw his reflection upon the ACT Government Service.

Mr Humphries: On the point of order, Mr Speaker: I was referring to the attitude taken by those opposite, which is that agreeing to wage demands by doctors is a bad move but agreeing to wage demands by other workers is a good move. I think, Mr Speaker, that distinction is made by the Opposition, not by the Government.

MR SPEAKER: Mr Humphries, the Speaker did not hear either comment.

MRS CARNELL: The issue here is that we have managed to make savings that are double the ones that Mr Berry attempted to make nearly two years ago, when this dispute started. Since then, we have had an actual stoppage by the doctors involved. We have flown people to Sydney for essential surgery because the previous Government simply could not solve the problem. Waiting lists, according to the previous Government and according to Mr Connolly, blew out through the roof because of their inability to solve the VMOs dispute and to actually get signatures on dotted lines. What we have managed to do in seven weeks is reach a situation where we have $2m worth of savings - double what Mr Berry even asked for. We have had not one patient flown to Sydney.

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