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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 4686 ..

MR BERRY (continuing):

I am proud to be an obstructionist if it means stopping somebody slashing health services. I am proud to be an obstructionist if it means stopping somebody selling, for some ideological reason, a publicly-owned asset.

Mr Speaker, the Estimates Committee went to a lot of trouble during the budget process to look at asset sales. We questioned the Government closely about asset sales and, as a person who attended those meetings, I can say to you that the Estimates Committee felt that everything had been put on the table. That was my impression. Was it not a surprise when, a day or two after the public hearings of the Estimates Committee, we saw an advertisement in the Canberra Times which talked about the purchase and development of the Health Building and the Queen Elizabeth II site behind it. The Queen Elizabeth II site will be vacant in due course and may be something that the Government wishes to dispose of, but it strikes me as an odd time to be selling these sorts of assets when there is a hole in the ground just across the road that nobody has been prepared to build anything on for years. I do not know why the Government would choose that time to sell these sorts of assets off.

But when I come to the Health Building, I have an entirely different view, because I know about the services which are in the Health Building. Mental health services are located there, for a good reason. It is central; people can get access to these services by public transport. It has become well known as the centre for community health services, and is a place which is part of the delivery of health services in the ACT. I must say that, at first, I was shocked to see this sale on the agenda; but, having thought about it in the context of Mrs Carnell's ideology, I do not suppose that should come as a surprise. The Aboriginal Health Clinic and Health Service is also there, for a good reason. It is accessible by public transport. It is a good place and has a nice, central location. The breast screening clinic, which now does the hospital breast screening because Mrs Carnell closed that, is there also.

The dental service is there. Because more people will be using the dental service, there will be more pressure on that service. There will be more pressure by poor people because the Commonwealth has defunded it, and Mrs Carnell has made no provision for it. Therefore, there will be more pressure on the dental service. It is most important that it be in a central area where people can get access to it by way of public transport. The reproductive healthcare service, the women's health service, the alcohol and drug service, the methadone clinic, the hearing clinic and so on are there also.

There is a long list of services which are provided from that centre and which, according to a news report, Mrs Carnell guarantees will stay in place; she categorically guarantees it. Well, I have heard Mrs Carnell's categorical guarantees before in relation to salaried medical officers and health centres. I must say, when I was standing amongst the rubble of what was left of the Melba health clinic, I thought, "That promise was not worth much, was it?". When the salaried medical officers disappeared, I thought to myself, "Mrs Carnell's stance on that was not worth much, was it?". That is why I treated her comments in the paper with similar distrust. On your record, Chief Minister, we would have to worry about what you have in your head about those services at that building in Civic.

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