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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 4 Hansard (27 March) . . Page.. 963 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

I just cannot believe that as part of a workplace reform designed to strengthen nursing, to make it more attractive, you would actually seek to enforce the removal of an entire nursing level, a level that is fundamental to the career and progression of nurses or nursing sisters. You are going to remove the capacity to take a tenured level 2 nursing position. What is a level 2? We are starting level 1s off at the low 30s. We are talking here about denying to nursing sisters the capacity to take a permanent level 2 position. They are not to be promoted to the next level in their career structure on a permanent basis. They are all to act and they are all to be reviewed every two years. What an outrageous concept. What is more outrageous about it is to seek to sell it or to parade it as an initiative for strengthening the nursing work force; to make this a more attractive career option; to attract ex-nurses back into nursing.

We all know how many tens of thousands of nurses there are around Australia who choose not to work in the field, and why is that? Let's ask some of the fundamental questions. Why don't all these trained nurses work in the public health system? Why would you, in seeking to strengthen the nursing system, do away with a fundamental part of the career structure when you know that the nurses are under a strain, when you know they are under stress, when you know that you have a range of special areas that simply aren't covered and when you know morale is low? Why would you seek to destroy their career prospects or their career structure in this way?

More than just that; you do it in a non-negotiable way. You actually lay it on the table, outside an EBA negotiating period, in a circumstance where there is no prospect of the matter being referred for arbitration. You do it quite deliberately with your eyes open. You lay it on the table outside of the negotiating period and you insist that it is non-negotiable. You expect in those circumstances that nurses and their representatives will say, "Oh well, look, we will take the money. Damn the career structure. Damn the impact on morale. Damn the impact on patient care. Damn the impact on our capacity to achieve something within our chosen profession. We will just take the money and forget everything else." Then you expect them to roll over on the basis that they will be so grateful for the money you are throwing their way that they will not put up an argument.

You will not negotiate. You lay it on the table and say, "Take it or leave it. You have got until 19 March, six weeks before your negotiating period opens anyway. That's it. All over Red Rover. Take the money; accept the conditions; allow your career structure to be destroyed; don't expect to be able to negotiate on the offer, and stop whingeing if it doesn't come off." What do you expect? Fair crack of the whip. What did you expect the nurses to do in the face of that sort of offer?

The nurses and their representatives have done what you should have anticipated they would do. You should have anticipated that they would say, "No, we are not prepared to do this to the nursing work force in the public health system here in the ACT. It's simply not acceptable. We want to negotiate this. We must be given an opportunity to negotiate it. These conditions are unacceptable. We need to be able to negotiate with somebody with the capacity and the authority to negotiate with us in good faith."

Take this letter that you tabled today, minister, from Michael Szwarcbord at Community Care. I love the way these things are turned around. The ANF wrote to Mr Szwarcbord after the initial appropriately convened meeting of the union. The ANF has over 80 per

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