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MR CONNOLLY (3.20): Mr Speaker, the Opposition welcomes this document. It is a document I would have tabled in this place towards the latter part of last year but for the fact that we were about to appoint, and subsequently did appoint, a person to the first line professorial position in the new Canberra Clinical School - the joint venture between Woden Valley Hospital, the University of Sydney and the Australian National University. I felt it appropriate, as the then Health Minister, that the new professor, who would be the professional head of this sector of the hospital, should have the opportunity to consider this document and have an input, though he was not formally part of the working party that had been established some time previously. The document sets out quite effectively the many initiatives that have been taken in this Territory over the years by successive governments. The birthing centre, over which Wayne Berry fought some very tough battles, is a fine example of innovative maternity services.
As the Health Minister indicated, there is one contentious issue in this report, and that is the ability of people whose first option is a home birth to access hospital services in the event that they need them. Mrs Carnell chooses to blame the Federal Government for the fact that that system does not work terribly well, because of the fact that midwives do not have Medicare provider numbers. But Mrs Carnell would know, or should know by now, as Health Minister - as every Health Minister, Labor and Liberal, around Australia knows - that, in reality, the great problem is that, throughout Australia, when Health Ministers have tried to provide these programs at the State level there has been tough industrial action taken by professional obstetricians to prevent that access. A Western Australian Liberal Health Minister tried to do this and was unsuccessful because of the threats of industrial action, and it is very regrettable that there have been similar threats, in effect, in this jurisdiction as in others.
Mr Berry: They tried to have him sacked, too.
MR CONNOLLY: The Minister?
Mr Berry: Yes.
MR CONNOLLY: Yes, I think they did. I think the doctors did jump up and down in relation to that particular Liberal, not Labor, Health Minister.
It is regrettable that there is something of a mind-set amongst some obstetricians that it is an “us and them” situation. The obstetricians have tended to be some of the most militant in the VMO dispute, and people that Mr Berry and I have crossed swords with over the years professionally have an outstanding record in Canberra. I was happy to say when I was Health Minister, when there had been concerns about professional standards in the ACT, that there was no question that they had an outstanding professional record. Woden Valley Hospital was much criticised by Mrs Carnell when she was in opposition and, it seems, when she is in government, as a result of today's question time; but, as she would also now be the first to acknowledge, the record of maternity services at Woden Valley Hospital is second to none in Australia. The record of successful deliveries is simply outstanding.