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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 10 Hansard (25 September) . . Page.. 3739 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

only applying to contracts and negotiations that occur post-December this year. So it is worth making that point.

Ms Dundas claimed that the contracts can be extended. Yes, they can be extended past 28 November, but they can be extended only by agreement. If the government is in dispute with a number of doctors, not necessarily all of them, those doctors may choose not to renew. That is their right and they may do that as a bargaining position. That has happened before and it may happen again.

For that reason, we believe that it is appropriate to be able to conclude the negotiations in a more timely way, if possible. That does not rule out the prospect of a longer negotiating period, but it means that we can achieve a shorter negotiation if all parties are happy. Acceptance of the proposition put by the Liberal Party would mean that it would be inevitable that negotiations would occur past 28 November. That would mean that there would be the serious prospect-I hope it will not occur-of some doctors not renewing their contracts as a bargaining position and putting pressure on the public hospital system.

Mr Smyth: It's your fault for not doing your work earlier.

MR CORBELL: Mr Smyth thinks that I should be punished for that. That is a political position, Mr Smyth, but I do not want to punish people in the public hospital system who need access to specialists and need access to surgery.

If the negotiations take longer, they take longer, and we will deal with that if and when it arrives. But I do not want this Assembly to say that you cannot achieve a negotiation within three months, which is what Mr Smyth is saying. Mr Smyth is saying that there must be a minimum period of three months. That precludes the government's capacity to achieve resolution within three months. That is my concern with Mr Smyth's amendment. That is why we believe that it is appropriate to continue on the course of action that I am proposing.

Mr Smyth: Read the amendment properly.

MR CORBELL: Mr Smyth interjects. Yes, Mr Smyth's amendment does say that there can be a shorter period by agreement. It does say that, but it gives significant bargaining power-

Mr Smyth: You have to have all the power. That's what it is about, isn't it? You have to have all the power.

MR CORBELL: It gives significant bargaining power to the VMOs, knowing that their contracts expire on 28 November.

Mr Smyth: But that is not their fault; it is your fault.

MR CORBELL: Again, Mr Smyth seeks to make political capital out of this situation, which will be to the detriment of the public hospital system. Some VMOs may choose not to renew their contracts, knowing that there is a minimum three-month negotiation

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