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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (8 December) . . Page.. 3215 ..

MR MOORE (continuing):

How are we going to decide on them? A ballot is to be conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission by 17 December to see whether nurses themselves and the other staff at the hospital think this is a good idea. I cannot for the life of me understand why a union would oppose this, with the exception of one thing. I know that the ANF have been very keen - and they have spoken to me about it - to have a single agreement across Canberra.

Mr Berry: That is really not the question I asked. I take a point of order, Mr Speaker.

MR SPEAKER: No, there is no point of order.

Mr Berry: I have not said what it is yet. Can I raise it with you first before you decide?

MR SPEAKER: You said that that was not the question that you asked. Mr Moore is answering.

Mr Berry: Let me complete my point of order. I asked why the Minister has decided to proceed towards the certification of a replacement agreement, contrary to the strong recommendations of the Industrial Relations Commission.

MR SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

MR MOORE: The ANF, I knew, wanted to have a broad agreement across Canberra, the same for every nurse. If we were made of money, I would say that that would be a terrific way to go, but in fact we have the opportunity instead to deliver a salary packaging system that will mean for nurses at the Canberra Hospital, should they decide in a democratic ballot to take it, a 10 per cent increase in their salary.

Mr Speaker, I wrote to the secretary of the ANF, Ms Colleen Duff, earlier today to explain that position to her. To be very specific about Mr Berry's question, it is interesting that he should talk about a strong recommendation and seemingly not be able to distinguish between an order of the Industrial Relations Commission and a strong recommendation. I think, Mr Berry, you do know the difference. The ANF went to the Industrial Relations Commission and requested an order to prevent the ballot. The outcome, Mr Berry, was that the Industrial Relations Commission did not give that order. Instead, they made a strong recommendation that the hospital and the ANF meet their obligations under their previous enterprise bargaining agreement. The hospital accepted immediately that that is a sensible thing to do and invited the ANF to join them as equal partners in carrying out a comparative review of salaries.

The reason that I think it is appropriate to proceed down the path the hospital has chosen is that we have the opportunity to provide nurses with a benefit, if they want it, that they would not otherwise be able to get. Nobody is forcing it on them. It is just if they want it. It is a great opportunity for nurses. I know it is not the way the Nursing Federation wanted to do things, but we have an opportunity for them, and it is something that I am keen to pursue.

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