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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 10 Hansard (23 September) . . Page.. 3567 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

It is difficult to understand why this legislation could not have been debated earlier in the year. We always knew the deadline was going to be November-yet here we stand, in September, with legislation that was tabled in August.

I believe all of these issues-including interim arrangements to cover the period between contract expiry and the conclusion of the new contracts-can be addressed if we, as an Assembly, agree to take time to consider this legislation and possible amendments. It is disappointing that we are working on a tight deadline with this. I believe we would have all appreciated more time to consider the legislation in detail, as opposed to considering what we thought was going to be legislation, based on what we were reading in press releases and through the media.

Although a collective bargaining process will remove pay inequities among members of our medical specialist work force, it appears that nothing is being done by the ACT government to tackle our specialist shortage in the short term. The ACT medical school will certainly help address the problem in the longer term, but we need to do more to get additional specialists in training now.

I thought the renegotiation of VMO contracts would have provided an ideal opportunity to arrange for additional training time and training places for registrars to address our local specialist shortage. However, I have heard nothing to give me the impression that this is occurring. I hope the government will consider this as negotiations progress.

The same applies to our GP shortage. The medical school will help tackle the shortage in the long term-but we need to be doing more now, to take the pressure off our overstretched GP work force. However, it seems that the government dismisses any ideas put forward, without giving them proper consideration. This is disappointing. I would like to believe they have some practical ideas that will be announced shortly, but I do not think that is the case. I believe the government is lacking imagination, vision and courage as it approaches the medical situation.

With regard to the legislation currently before us, there have been valid points raised today. These were about the potential for two legal frameworks to be applied to the negotiations, and the government getting too much power in the contract negotiation process. I hope we will have more time to consider these points and look at amendments.

As I said, I am hoping to have some amendments available for members to look at in the near future. Hopefully, they will make this legislation a little clearer and address the concerns raised by a number of people during this debate.

MR CORBELL (Minister for Health and Minister for Planning) (6.20), in reply: I thank members for their support of the bill in principle this evening. In closing, I would like to address a number of the issues members have raised in the debate. I refer firstly to questions raised by Ms Tucker in relation to why the ACT government is opposing the application of the VMOA in the Industrial Relations Commission to be a registered organisation. Whilst not directly related to the bill, I think it is worth addressing this issue.

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