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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 4 Hansard (27 March) . . Page.. 977 ..

Question so resolved in the negative.

MR MOORE (Minister for Health, Housing and Community Services) (5.24): Mr Speaker, this amendment, as Mr Humphries put it, is quite unacceptable to the government. What we have is a situation where the Assembly, through Mr Berry's amendment, is choosing to intervene in industrial relations. This undermines what we set out to do, which is to strengthen the nursing work force and negotiate in a reasonable way.

The nurses union agreed with management at the Canberra Hospital that they would operate in a certain way until November this year. The appropriate mechanisms are in place for the continuation of that enterprise bargaining agreement process, which has a six-month lead time where no industrial action is allowed but where people can sit down and talk and negotiate. That is an appropriate way to go. It is inappropriate to remove that time for discussion.

The very thing that Ms Tucker always advocates is that people should be able to sit down and discuss and work through without the exercise of industrial power such as striking. That is why the federal legislation, which we cannot change, exists. Agreements were signed by staff and management in accordance with Commonwealth industrial law and they have expiry dates of November in the case of the Canberra Hospital and April in the case of Community Care.

Mr Berry: You are trying to overturn it.

MR MOORE: Mr Berry interjects that I tried to overturn it. I have explained to members on a number of occasions what I have tried to do. In my position of responsibility I can recognise there are certain problems, and that we ought to intervene to try to resolve those problems. We ought to be able to make an offer. I took quite some time to convince my cabinet colleagues that this would be a good idea. Their greatest concern was that I would effectively open up an enterprise bargaining process in the middle of an enterprise bargaining agreement and, if that were to happen, then we should never proceed.

What I suppose I find most extraordinary is that the union was prepared to allow a secret ballot to be taken at Calvary but was not prepared to allow a secret ballot at the Canberra Hospital. The 83 per cent result in favour of the package shows that the package was considered reasonable by normal nurses. The union then went through a process of ensuring that their statements were of a political nature, that they would run candidates at the next election, and that they would run a political campaign rather than concentrating on what the issues were in terms of the work force.

As I explained in my statement, I have sought again and again to have sensible meetings to try to sort out what were the issues with the nurses union. Mr Speaker, I am ready to do that at any time. What I said, though, was that I was not prepared to negotiate the package because that was not my role. That is the role of the people who are signing the package-the management of the hospital and the union. I was quite happy to meet to discuss other conditions but not to negotiate the package.

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