Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 10 Hansard (6 December) . . Page.. 2717 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
If Mrs Carnell did share that view that the general practitioner has a very important place in primary health care and that the service should be available to all people, she could have looked again at the savings that are coming from the Booz Allen consultancy and perhaps chosen not to put so much of those savings into acute care. Once again, it is looking at the long term. I stress again that it does not have to be this way in this Assembly. We would welcome a more open and consultative approach from this Liberal minority Government, and we would not have to be having censure motions like this.
MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General) (12.45): Mr Speaker, I emphatically reject the proposition that the Minister for Health has misled anybody or has failed to comply with the wishes of the Assembly expressed in the resolution of 24 August. The Government announced that it was proceeding to make health centres available for sale to the practitioners who worked in them.
Mr Connolly: After I announced it.
MR HUMPHRIES: Discussions with the unions long predated any announcement by Mr Connolly, notwithstanding what he might imagine. The Assembly on 24 August decided that it would impose a restriction on that capacity, that we had to retain 100 per cent bulk-billing practices by GPs in those centres. As a result, the Health Minister attempted to retain those people in those centres in that form.
The Government, since that motion was carried, has offered a considerable discount on rent to the doctors in the centres. It has, in addition, offered considerably reduced arrangements to the doctors for the purchase of the capital equipment in the centres and has advertised nationally to obtain doctors in those circumstances. Bear in mind, Mr Speaker, that the Assembly imposed a restriction on the Government in the way it was to deal with its announced policy, and it is that change imposed on the Government by the Assembly that has caused these problems. You say that we would not have achieved $600,000 in savings. With the greatest respect, we will never know because, clearly, the policy program we announced at the beginning is not going to be achievable in those circumstances. We are going to have to go back and find some other way of achieving savings in that context.
It is the lot of a minority government to have to wear censure motions fairly regularly in this place. I can recall Mr Connolly, I think, on an occasion in the last Assembly when a censure motion was being moved against him, claiming in very shrill terms that the moving of frequent censure motions debases the currency of a censure motion. This is the third censure motion the Assembly has dealt with in the space of about two weeks. If that does not debase the currency, what does? This Government has been accused of not facing this issue with honesty and truth. I would suggest that there are some people in this place who are not facing it with particularly much honesty and truth and perhaps are afraid to admit that they made a mistake a few months ago when they supported that motion of 24 August.