Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 10 Hansard (25 September) . . Page.. 3741 ..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
we have an opportunity for the minister to ask this Assembly to endorse his bullyboy activities about the VMOs.
The VMOs are ordinary Canberrans-they are taxpayers, they are ratepayers, they are voters-and they deserve to have a fair system to serve them. Why should the VMOs accept a system different from anybody else's system? Why should the first run at the system be less than will be given to the system after 31 December? That is illogical. Indeed, I think that it will lead to a bad outcome. It is the minister's fault that time has run out; he has been the inactive one.
I asked some weeks ago about where the VMO draft contracts were at. The government could not tell me. They have not been shown because they cannot be written until this work is done. This work is only being done today and the Assembly is being asked to endorse his inactivity because the minister could not get off his hands and do something much earlier in the year. He knew in May. He must have known before May. He must have had briefs as the incoming minister-I am sure that he had briefs as the incoming minister-in December that said that the VMO contracts were coming up and that he needed to start working on them. But no, what does he do? He sits on his hands. It is pathetic.
We should not be endorsing a system that disenfranchises the rights of individuals to negotiate fair and equitable conditions for themselves and, at the same time, deliver better conditions of service for the people of the ACT through the hospital system. What we are doing today could set a dangerous precedent. If this amendment gets up, it will mean that the minister can come back here at any time he wants and say that he needs a short timeframe because he has run out of time or because somebody might bargain harder as he has not done his work-disadvantage everybody else, but do not disadvantage the minister or the government.
The minister should not be rewarded with this amendment because of his inactivity. This amendment should go down. My amendment, which he misrepresents, does allow for a shorter negotiating period; it could occur. Negotiate seems to be a word that is foreign to the minister or he is afraid of. It is not a big call to say to people, "We need to do this quickly as the contracts are about to expire. How about it?"Negotiate. It is not hard to do. The amendment should go down.
MS TUCKER (5.07): I agree with Mr Smyth that the timing here is unfortunate. Why have we been put in this situation? I think that that is regrettable. I am concerned about Mr Smyth's argument. I was taking notes while listening to the arguments of Mr Corbell and Mr Smyth. Mr Smyth stressed over and again that the current situation is the fault of Mr Corbell and is due to his inability, laziness, lack of action, et cetera, but I do not think that that is what the decision here is about. I do not have a problem with Mr Smyth making those comments-one would expect that-but I do have concerns about the timing.
I would not put the timing situation down to laziness or use the other language that Mr Smyth used, but I think that the timing is a problem. I would say that we are faced with a situation where a decision has to be made right now on the ground of community interest. I hear Mr Smyth's argument that the arrangements being made for the VMOs in special circumstances are particularly unfair to them. This bill is a special piece of