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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 11 Hansard (26 September) . . Page.. 3307 ..

MR STANHOPE: We do have something to say. Within eight weeks of taking government last November, to the great relief of the people of Canberra, we settled the nurses dispute. We settled it within eight weeks of coming into government because we treated the union, the nurses and the nursing profession with due respect.

One of the great things that have been identified through the report that you refer to, Mr Pratt, is the reason why tens of thousands of Australian nurses have left the profession. It is not always about money and conditions.

It is interesting and very revealing that, when nurses who have left the profession are asked, "Why is it that you have left the profession? Why is it that you won't come back into the profession?", they do not put "pay and conditions" at the top of the list; they put "lack of respect" there. That is the point I am making about the way in which you treated nurses and nursing as a profession in your period of government.

We moved to address those issues of pay and conditions, and we settled the dispute. You ran a dispute for a year; we settled it in eight weeks. We settled it by negotiating an EBA that the Nursing Federation was prepared to sign up to, with significant increases in pay and significant recognition of nursing as a profession.

As a result of that and as a direct response to the second appropriation bill, which we passed before Christmas-within 10 weeks of coming into government-we provided significant additional moneys for nurses and have employed an additional 49.9 full-time equivalent nurses.

That is what we did within the first three months of taking government: settled a dispute which you engineered, which ran for a year; increased nurses' pay; respected them as a profession; nurtured nursing as a profession, acknowledging it as one of the most significant of the professions in the delivery of health care-

Opposition members interjecting-

MR SPEAKER: Order! Members of the opposition will come to order, please.

MR STANHOPE: We employed an additional 49.9 full-time equivalent nurses, and we have in place a range of strategies to deal, to the best of our capacity, with the very issues raised in your question, Mr Pratt. We seek actively to encourage nurses who have left the profession back into it, through a very active scholarship program. We encourage, acknowledge and respect nursing as a profession.

Mr Smyth: Do you?

Mrs Dunne: Where are they?

MR SPEAKER: That includes you, Mr Smyth, and you, Mrs Dunne.

MR STANHOPE: A lot more nurses are employed now, Mrs Dunne, than when you were around pulling the levers, let me tell you that.

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