Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 4089 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
are major shortages; there are not enough positions in our universities. It just seems to me such a classic that we've got these dramatic shortages in nurses. Every jurisdiction, every hospital in Australia, every system in Australia, has untold numbers of vacancies. We have them here in the ACT. We have funded positions we cannot fill. We cannot train enough nurses yet. But-surprise, surprise-there are currently more people applying to study nursing than there are places being offered. Doesn't it seem that there is something wrong about this? There are more people applying to study nursing at university than there are places available. So we've got a double-bunger problem there in the first place. The people aren't able to study nursing, and when they do there is the massive disincentive of HECS.
So there are other things that the Commonwealth can and should be doing in relation to nursing, but there are responsibilities that the states and territories need to pick up, and one of them is to respond in the way we have. We resolved the nurses dispute on coming into government-a dispute that you allowed to run for over a year. The Liberals had no intention of fixing that dispute; they in fact exacerbated it. You stirred it up, you demeaned nursing as a profession, and you demeaned the union. Only when we got into government was there any genuine attempt at fixing that dispute, and we fixed it within, what, six weeks. It was done. You could not do it. You had no intention of doing it. You simply inflamed it.
One of the reasons you could not fix it, of course, is that you did not fund it. You did not actually fund a pay rise. You went around pretending you were prepared to give a pay rise, but you had not funded it. So you left that to us as well. We resolved the nurses dispute, but there is more that we need to do, and one of the things we can do-
Mr Stefaniak: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Standing order 118 (a) says that answers to questions shall be concise. It is nearly a quarter to three now, Mr Speaker, and we are still on the first question.
MR SPEAKER: That is a point well made, Mr Stefaniak. Mr Stanhope.
Mr Stanhope: I have concluded, Mr Speaker.
MRS CROSS: Mr Speaker, my question is addressed to the Attorney-General. Minister, it is now five years since the Bender family had their lives destroyed by the catastrophe of the Canberra Hospital implosion, and yet no justice has been done to the victims. Minister, can you confirm that you are the relevant person instructing the government solicitors representing the territory in negotiations for settlement with the Bender family? Alternatively, if you are not the person instructing the government solicitor in this matter, who is the person who will give the go-ahead and tick off the settlement with the Bender family? Can you also inform the Assembly whether you believe that a settlement is possible before Christmas?
MR STANHOPE: Yes, Mrs Cross, as the Attorney-General, I am the minister responsible for the management of the claims made by the Bender family against the ACT government. It needs to be understood that, to some extent, some of these matters are caught within the legal system, and there is some element of sub judice around issues