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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 9 Hansard (22 August) . . Page.. 3152 ..

Questions without notice


MR STANHOPE: My question is to the Minister for Health, Housing and Community Services. Today the minister announced that the government was to make a new wage offer to nurses. The essence of the offer was an increase of 17.5 per cent over four years, with some backdating, subject to trade-offs that did not include the current overlapping shift rostering system at Canberra Hospital. The minister indicated that the offer will cost an estimated $36 million over the period and that the Treasurer, Mr Humphries, was confident the government had the money to pay it.

Can the minister say where the $36 million is coming from? Can he give a guarantee that the nurses pay offer will not be funded by cuts to other areas of the health portfolio.

MR MOORE: It is coming from Treasury.

MR STANHOPE: That answer is very helpful and raises some very interesting questions about financial integrity. Can the minister confirm that in the same interview this morning on the ABC he said he had told the Liberals he would not help in their election campaigning, a promise fully illustrated in his answer to the previous question? Why has he waited until 59 days before the election to suddenly find the spare $36 million to keep the nurses quiet?

MR MOORE: Thank you for that question. The offer has already been made to nurses. We made a 12 per cent offer towards the end of last year. I was very pleased that 83 per cent of nurses at Calvary voted to accept that offer. I was very disappointed when nurses at Canberra Hospital did not accept it. Because they did not accept it, we moved into enterprise bargaining negotiations. The negotiations had to start at any time in the six months leading up to 30 November.

The hospital and Community Care pointed out to me that they were in a very difficult position to carry on negotiations, because they did not have any sense of the money that would be available and therefore would be limited to a negotiation based on hospital funds, taking into account the overall commitment of the government in terms of the generic pay rise and CPI. They requested that I see whether the government would be prepared to indicate a level of funding within which they could then negotiate their enterprise bargaining agreement.

Unlike the situation we had a bit less than a year ago, when we were talking about a 12 per cent intervention in an enterprise bargaining agreement period, a very unusual move, we are now talking about the new enterprise bargaining agreement period. However, we did add something. We said that, should the hospital and the nurses union come to an agreement prior to the enterprise bargaining agreement being completed, provided it was in the time frame in which the government is able to operate prior to going into caretaker mode, we would be prepared to pay the nurses the agreed sum starting early.

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