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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 1 Hansard (13 December) . . Page.. 268 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

going on about mandates as I would not want this government to think they have carte blanche to do as they will.

Mr Speaker, to comment briefly on the specific issue of nurses' pay, I believe that nurses deserve to be remunerated fairly for the extremely valuable work that they do and I was pleased to note the constructive approach taken by the new government in negotiating pay and conditions with the nurses in the ACT. Also, I am aware that hospital funding was one of Labor's election priorities and is now a major part of this appropriation bill. How can I not agree that there is an urgent need for increased funding at Canberra Hospital? I welcome this move to increase the funding, which will go some way to alleviating, in the short term, the strains under which the hospital currently operates, especially those which relate to nursing.

I recognise the fiscal limitations which constrain the government's ability to substantially increase funding in areas like health. However, appropriations on this scale will not, I believe, provide sufficient funding for the hospital in the long term. There is no question that at least this amount is necessary to repair the very worst gaps in the current funding arrangements. No-one here should be under the impression that this appropriation bill will secure first class public hospital care for Canberrans in the long term.

I also agree with the statement from the opposition yesterday that health is about more than just funding hospitals. I hope that the Minister for Health understands that and will broaden his attention to encompass holistic health care for Canberrans from birth to death and everywhere in between. In this context, I am concerned that incrementally raising the number of nursing positions and increasing rates of pay will be of limited benefit if more people do not want to enter this profession.

It is a real problem that caring professions such as nursing and teaching do not attract more people willing to take on the job. I believe that this is a general social problem. Increasing nurses' rates of pay is important, but not of itself a sufficient response. We need to show as a community, and in this Assembly, that we share and support the intrinsic value of caring.

The allocation of public funds does reflect what we value and, whether we like it or not, it also reflects various other imperatives. In this light, I do support the government's hospital funding initiatives as a necessary step in the right direction and support this appropriation bill as a whole.

MR SMYTH (5.31): Mr Speaker, it is interesting to see the government's second appropriation bill. As Mr Humphries has said, the opposition will be supporting it. As already stated, much of it is about initiatives that we began, but I cannot help sensing that the government is simply looking for a deficit. In fact, you would almost think that it is wishing for a deficit, hoping for a deficit, because of the pattern of expenditure that we are seeing through the second appropriation bill, with the prospect of a third appropriation bill being foreshadowed. If the territory goes into deficit, it will be Labor which has taken us there. I think that is the first and foremost point to be made.

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