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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 7 Hansard (19 June) . . Page.. 2109 ..

MR BERRY (9.35): I want to go to the report of the Select Committee on Estimates, which is being described by the government as a new low in relations in this Assembly.

Mr Quinlan: Stop saying that. I will be hurt.

MR BERRY: You should wear the badge with honour. You know you have hit the spot when they start to bleed a bit. That has been my experience.

I refer specifically to page 26 and nurses. The committee received evidence about the difficulties being experienced in reaching an enterprise bargaining agreement with the nurses at the Canberra Hospital. They talked about a fundamental breakdown in the negotiations and in relationships between the nurses and the government. The committee mentioned that the executive team was trying to sort out a resolution to the impasse. It made an important point which I think is worth labouring for some time:

... it seems that little goodwill remains between the nurses and the Minister. The committee is concerned that nurses should receive wage justice and suitable working conditions and that any protracted dispute could endanger patient care.

The push and shove of industrial relations will always be the case where there is as contest of ideas about wages and working conditions. As a former health minister, I can say that I have had some experience in that respect myself. But since then quite a lot has changed. The federal laws which apply in the ACT have been described as the most repressive industrial laws since federation. There has even been criticism about them not being in compliance with our international obligations about collective bargaining, the right to strike and so on. In my view, the balance has been shifted too far to the employer side in the ideological war on the trade union movement.

The federal government is also trying to attack the capacity of the trade union movement in its involvement in the Australian Labor Party. It cannot even keep its nose out of that. I do not know how the government would feel if Labor tried to pass changes to the Corporations Law which prohibited corporations from having anything to do with the Liberal Party. That would be an interesting debate.

Let me go back to the industrial disputation issue. I think the minister was incompetent in this industrial dispute. With no real need, he set about aggravating the nurses to the point where the quality of services in Canberra Hospital must have been adversely affected. There is no way that they could not have been.

There was a personal attack on the leader of the nurses union, Ms Duff, and erroneous claims about the union's hidden agenda. There was some suggestion that a member of the union was running a politician. Another agenda was dug up by the minister about Ms Duff's ambitions in the Trades and Labour Council. He even criticised Ms Duff because of her presidency of the council. It turned out that the minister had to apologise for that. He used as an excuse the apparent appearance on the Trades and Labour Council's website of Ms Duff as the union president.

You would have thought that at some point along the way the minister might have had some sort of intellectual interface between himself and the head of the nurses union about the troubles they were experiencing. You would think the minister would have

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