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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 11 Hansard (26 September) . . Page.. 3306 ..

MR PRATT (continuing):

"There's been lots of reports but not much action," Ms Staniforth said.

"I hope the report scares bureaucrats and government to do something now or we're in dire straits."

Can the minister advise whether his government has an active recruitment process in place, and how successful it has been in filling the 103 vacancies in the public health system? Will the recent cutbacks in the hospital system, such as not filling short-term vacancies and cuts in the use of agency nurses to meet the workload, put further pressure on nursing staff?

MR STANHOPE: The nursing shortage in the ACT, the nursing shortage in Australia and the nursing shortage internationally is something that all jurisdictions, all governments, all hospitals and all health services have been grappling with now for years. There is a major shortage of nurses in Australia, in the ACT and internationally, and this has been bedevilling health care systems for years.

I would suggest that it was one of the major issues faced by the previous government in the seven long years we endured, when we saw absolutely no action and no attention to these issues. Indeed, we saw the previous government, through the previous minister for health, simply harangue nurses and force them, with the Australian Nursing Federation, into the most protracted period of industrial disputation we have seen in a decade.

Some of the enduring images I retain of your period in government-we won't go to Bruce Stadium or Hall/Kinlyside, and we won't go to a range of other places we might go to-are the language and the behaviour of your minister for health and of your government in relation to nurses in this territory, the absolutely appalling way your minister spoke about the head of the Nursing Federation and nurses as members of a profession, the way you sought to grind them down and the way you persisted in that protracted period of industrial disputation with nurses.

If one thinks of the most protracted industrial dispute of the last five years, it was the dispute which you engineered, generated and refused to settle with nurses in the ACT. It is quite ironic now to see you, as an opposition, asking questions about nursing shortages.

Mr Humphries: I have a point of order, Mr Speaker. This question is about the low opinion of Ms Staniforth, from the Nursing Federation, of this government, not the previous government. Will the Chief Minister answer the question?

MR STANHOPE: I was providing some background and pointing out the irony as context for the answer I am about to give.

Mr Humphries: Where's the answer to this question?

Mrs Dunne: You can't answer it, because you have nothing to say for yourself.

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