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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 10 Hansard (25 September) . . Page.. 3740 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

period, and that will have an impact on public hospital service provision. I am not ruling out that that might happen if we are unable to conclude negotiations within three months.

At 5.00 pm, in accordance with standing order 34, the debate was interrupted. The motion for the adjournment of the Assembly having been put and negatived, the debate was resumed.

MR CORBELL I am not ruling out that that may not occur, but I am saying that we should not put ourselves in the situation of basically almost guaranteeing that it will occur because VMOs will know that their contracts expire on 28 November and they can hold out until the end of the minimum three-month period.

That is the proposition Mr Smyth is putting to the Assembly. Given that most doctors, certainly the major doctor organisation that I have spoken to, have not raised this issue-indeed, the VMOA has not raised this issue either-about a shorter period potentially for this round, I think that it is unreasonable for Mr Smyth to try to play politics with it, which simply guarantees that we will have potential withdrawal of service. I do not think that that is in anyone's interest. For that reason, Mr Smyth's amendment cannot be supported and members should instead support the government.

MR SMYTH (Leader of the Opposition) (5.02): Mr Speaker, I take great exception to what the minister has just said. Apparently it is my fault that he has been inactive, apparently I seek political gain because I want to ensure that there is a reasonable bargaining period to get these contracts right and apparently, because nobody else has raised it, it is not important.

I am seeking to ensure that these contracts will work and are not railroaded through so that we actually set up a system that might encourage other doctors to come to the ACT. My fear is that, if Mr Corbell's amendment gets up, we will have a minister who will ride roughshod over the existing VMOs and potentially scare away other doctors that might come here because they will adjudge the system as one that does not work, a system that will not let them be the doctors they want to be to deliver to the people of Canberra the services that they need.

If we do not get the first round of contracts right, that is the impression that we will give. Mr Corbell's argument is that, because there is no time left, we should not have this amendment. If there is no time left, he should resign as minister, because he has failed in his duty as minister to ensure the continuing ongoing good operations of the ACT health system. If he has not left enough time for that to occur, he is at fault, not the Assembly, not I and not the VMOs. He had a wake-up call on 28 May when the contracts first expired and he has had six months to fix them; the extension was for six months. Because of his inactivity, because of the laziness of the government, because of his inability to come up with amendments earlier, people will be disadvantaged. Ultimately, the people of Canberra will be disadvantaged if we have slipshod contracts.

Mr Corbell says that the system that he is putting in place is the system that has been operating for, I think he said, 20 years or so in New South Wales. How hard would it be to duplicate that system and bring it to the ACT? I put it to you, Mr Speaker, that it would not be particularly hard at all. We have vague excuses for his lack of action and

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