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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 10 Hansard (23 September) . . Page.. 3499 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

Arbitration Act 1986 and that is how you would normally do this. Indeed, in his speech the minister said they believe it should be carried out under commercial rather than some other form of negotiation, and normally that would be done under the Commercial Arbitration Act 1986. There is a set of rules in this act for everyone. However, the minister will now determine in writing the principles and rules for VMOs. Mr Speaker, the minister will determine that and I think that should set the alarm bells ringing for everyone.

The dilemma is that we are going to attempt to do this by 28 November. Mr Corbell in his letter states that he is going to move an amendment that talks about a negotiating period after 31 December this year which "must not be shorter than three months"unless it is agreed to by the parties. But he does not say in his letter to members what will happen before 31 December this year. He goes on to say in that paragraph:

This amendment will allow notification of a short negotiating period immediately following passage of the Bill, in keeping with the need to have new contracts in place by 28 November 2003, while providing for a longer period in all future negotiations.

Isn't that interesting? Why would we have a short negotiating period on the contracts that are going to be in place for probably five, six, seven or eight years to come, but then afterwards you can negotiate for as long as you want-a minimum of three months and you can either negotiate a short period or you can negotiate a long period? What are we afraid of? Where is the transparency and process that allow the VMOs to negotiate properly? The VMOs would be denied, through the passage of this bill and the ability of the minister to set the principles and the rules in writing, the ability to negotiate properly.

How will it happen? Mr Speaker, I believe that we will conclude the in-principle stage of this bill sometime today. We will then come back on Thursday and look at Mr Corbell's amendments and some of the amendments that I have on the drawing board. So the bill might be passed early next week and that will leave about 60-odd days, about two months, for agents to be found to conduct negotiations, for VMOs to decide whether they want to go with this agent or that, whether they want to do it collectively or do it through an agent, whether they will do it by speciality or whether they will do it by organisation. They have to work out where they are going to go. Then they have to work out what sort of agent they are going to employ. When they get their agent they then have to go and talk to the government. The government is going to have some negotiations, there will be argy-bargy and eventually a draft contract will appear. That, of course, has got to go back to all the members and this has all got to be done by 28 November.

Mr Speaker, I do not believe that that can happen in that timeframe in a fair, honest, open and accountable way. So you have to question why this is happening so late in the day. The minister presented this bill in this place in August and he wants it to be determined in September. He wants us to deal with the legislation as quickly as we can so that they can have a negotiated outcome by the end of November. That is not fair. That is not fair to the VMOs and it is not fair to the people of Canberra because it will send a message to other doctors around the nation and around the world that the system in Canberra does not allow proper negotiation. We all know that there is a worldwide shortage of specialist doctors and if you want to attract people you have to have an environment that gives

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