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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 3 Hansard (26 March) . . Page.. 626 ..

MRS CARNELL: I am sure that, when the Assembly was being built, some people opposite and around the Assembly would have liked a bit of a trough to be built in the middle, but that is not something that this Government will be about. We do not believe that that sort of approach is appropriate. It is taxpayers' money, and we will do everything in our power to ensure that it is used appropriately.

MR KAINE: I have a supplementary question, Mr Speaker. Chief Minister, you have satisfied us about your own staff and those of your Ministers, but can you also satisfy the Assembly that the staff of members of the Opposition are no longer subsidising their living costs by eating so much at the expense of the taxpayer?

MRS CARNELL: Thank you very much, Mr Kaine. At this stage I do not have the information about what the staff of those opposite may or may not be doing, but I would be very happy for those opposite to make that information available. A situation where any staff member claims a meal allowance every single day would, I believe, raise a question in any member's mind.

Nurses - Registration Fees

MS TUCKER: My question is directed to Mrs Carnell in her capacity as Minister for Health and Community Care. I understand that the Australian Nursing Federation has written to you expressing concern about the $48 increase in registration fees, while doctors' registration fees have gone up by only $5. I understand that under the Nurses Act the Chief Minister has the power to determine registration fees. Can you explain what your Government's position is on the increased fee and whether you are prepared to renegotiate a more acceptable fee with the Australian Nursing Federation?

MRS CARNELL: Thank you very much for that question, because it raises a number of very interesting points. Unlike, I suppose, anybody else in this place, I served on one of our registration boards for a quite long period of time. During that time one issue that came up time and time again, and continues to come up, was the autonomy of the boards. As Ms Tucker may not know, the registration boards are autonomous from government; they do not take direction from the Minister of the day. The problem that has existed in the past is that, although they are autonomous and do not take direction, they have not had financial autonomy. It has been a bit of a bugbear for those boards for a very long time. Decisions have been taken by those boards, probably in the last 18 months, that they did want to become autonomous; that they wanted to be financially autonomous and able to make decisions for themselves.

To do that required quite substantial fee increases in a number of areas; in fact, for that matter, in just about all areas. For Ms Tucker's information, I would like to run through a few of those. In the area of pharmacy - an area that I know something about - the increase has been from $54 to $80, and now it has been increased to $120; medical practitioners pay $125; nurses' fees went up from $32 to $80; veterinary surgeons' fees went from $77 to $100; physios' fees went from $56 to $100;

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