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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (27 October) . . Page.. 2271 ..

Hospitals - Privatisation

MR KAINE: Mr Speaker, through you, I have a question to the Acting Chief Minister. Does the Liberal Party now have a policy of privatising the Canberra Hospital at Woden and the public hospital aspect of Calvary Hospital?

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, the Government has no policy of privatising either of those public facilities; but, as the Minister for Health and Community Care made quite clear in Estimates Committee hearings and, indeed, other Ministers have made clear in response to similar fishing-exercise questions, ruling out options for better management of the Territory's resources and its public assets is not an exercise that we are going to engage in. We want to make sure that we deliver services in the best possible way. To quote the words of another study which has come along recently in a related area, we want to remain flexible and adaptable to what the future might bring for us as providers of services to the ACT community. I will quote one line from a report called "Raising the Curtain":

Openness to new ideas and to others and flexibility in regard to ways of doing things are essential to the creation of a dynamic and progressive party.

Substitute the word "government" for "party" and you get a very good piece of advice. Mr Speaker, I am not saying that the Government is definitely going to proceed to sell those public assets or definitely not going to do so, but I will say that it has to be a case of examining what is best for this community. We will keep our options open about how to do that for the whole range of government services.

MR KAINE: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Will the Government undertake a scoping study of those facilities to see what their situation might be in the future, how much they might bring to public assets in terms of contribution to our cash reserves, and then make a decision about whether we might sell them, rather than continuing to maintain the most public operations? Surely that would make the resolution of the superannuation liability easier still.

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, let me say that the Government has no policy of selling the Canberra Hospital or the Calvary Public Hospital; so, questions about scoping studies and other measures to put in place a sale are hypothetical. I do not rule out or rule in any particular option, Mr Speaker, but I say that I think that it is appropriate to remain flexible about these sorts of things and to ensure that we deliver services in the best, most effective way.

I know that those opposite say that they should constrain themselves by not accepting any sale of assets. In saying that, they put themselves at odds with most of the Labor Party's other jurisdictions, which either have talked about or actually have privatised major government assets where that has been in the interests of consumer service and the delivery of quality products. For the most part, I might say, those things have achieved their goals. The Opposition, or at least parts of the Opposition, remain cut off from the mainstream of thinking, not just in Liberal States, but in Labor States as well, about the way in which those services might be delivered in a more effective way.

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