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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (28 May) . . Page.. 724 ..

MR MOORE (continuing):

are very concerned about the exponential rise of indemnity insurance. One of the reasons why we can do it is that we are redoing the whole-of-government insurance. That gives us room to move and flexibility. We have tried to be particularly flexible in all our negotiations with the VMOs, and we will continue to be as flexible as possible. We have allowed an extension of time. We have now tried to meet this sticking point. We are doing everything we possibly can to avoid having the hospital close down and everything we possibly can to try to come to a sensible negotiation with the VMOs.

As of the last time I checked, earlier this morning, we had 20 VMOs who have signed contracts. A fifth of the VMOs have signed contracts. That indicates that we are not offering impossible contracts. They are sensible contracts that are being offered. They will be at the highest pay rates in Australia, other than what was being paid in the ACT. We will continue to try to resolve these problems and to avoid this sort of situation happening, if we can.

MR OSBORNE: I have a supplementary question. Thank you for that very detailed answer, Mr Moore. How confident are you that your contingency plans will be able to keep the hospital going if this dispute goes on for a number of weeks? I did not read it in the paper this morning, but it seems to me that it could be a problem if it drags on.

MR MOORE: Of course it will be a problem if it drags on. One of the things that happened and that we were criticised for was advertising for other specialists around Australia. In fact, we have had positive responses in a number of areas. In some of the critical areas which would present difficulties for the hospital, we have been able to talk to specialists who are interested in coming to Canberra, perhaps as staff specialists or perhaps as VMOs prepared to sign this sort of contract. After all, they will still be amongst the highest paid doctors in Australia. Why would they not be interested in coming? In a couple of the specialty areas, I believe that some of the doctors feel very cocky that there are not going to be any alternatives. In fact, there are some alternatives for us. But it would be inappropriate for us to come to an agreement with those doctors who are interested in coming here, prior to giving the current VMOs an opportunity to sign the contracts that have been offered to them. There may be a time delay between some VMOs refusing the contracts, as of next Sunday, and when we can get doctors here; but we will be happy to offer them an air ticket and say, "It is waiting for you at the airport, so jump on the plane and be here to get to work". The critical thing is that we are doing everything we possibly can to ensure that the hospital continues.

Car Registration Plates

MR KAINE: Mr Speaker, I have a question to the Minister for Urban Services. The Minister has had a chance to think about vehicle numberplates over the last few days because I have not asked him a question about them. I would like to clarify the Minister's position on this issue, Mr Speaker. On 29 April the Minister said this:

As clients come into the Motor Registry they should be offered that option.

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