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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 8 Hansard (25 August) . . Page.. 2428 ..

MS CARNELL: No, because we had some negative CPIs over that period, Mr Moore. It was actually 2 per cent over the last three years. That means that salaries have increased faster than CPI. I do not have a problem with that. That was the EBA. But let us not pretend that anybody has slipped behind the cost of living here in the ACT. It simply has not happened. Let us negotiate but let us negotiate on a mature basis. Let this Assembly, for a change, not go to the deja vu situation where the Opposition gets up and says, "Shock, horror! The Government is not negotiating. The poor nurses". Let us not have the situation where the Health Minister has to go out there in that sort of debate.

Let us, as an Assembly, determine once and for all that we do need to bring our health costs to within at least 10 per cent of the national averages. We can only do that if we all work together. All Health Ministers, whether from the other side of politics or from this side, Mr Berry included, have had to deal with exactly the same situation. We have to bring our costs in line. That means we have to bring our staffing structures in line. We have to bring our capacity for flexibility across wards in line. We have to be willing to be very flexible.

That is what Mr Moore is attempting to do; it is what hospital management is attempting to do. Let us just get on with it. Let us get back to the negotiating table. Let us stop the industrial action. Let us start at least with the offer that Mr Moore put on the table today. Hospital management and the nurses are the people who should be doing this sort of negotiation. Let us make sure that we all focus on our patients in the future. That is what this should be about, not about politics.

MR BERRY (5.21): I move:

Omit all words after "That", substitute "this Assembly requires the Government to immediately commence meaningful negotiations with representatives of the Australian Nurses Federation over work conditions and pay for nurses employed in the Canberra public hospital system and all other unions which have current claims with the Government for improved work conditions or increased pay. Furthermore the Assembly condemns the confrontationalist approach that has emerged in its negotiations with the nurses and other unions, an approach which was particularly evident in the attack on school bursars."

The issue here is the style of government. It is the style of the industrial relations system which the government works under. It is also their enthusiasm to adopt the style which has been adopted by the Federal Minister for Employment, Mr Reith. The Government does not have to adopt that style. It is true that all governments have been involved in the hurly-burly of industrial relations with various parts of its employment base since self-government. I have been involved as well when workers have made demands on their employers. I think traditionally employees expect more from Labor governments than they expect from Liberal governments, but they are certainly in a more defensive mood with Liberal governments because of the philosophical position the Liberals adopt.

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