Page 2525 - Week 08 - Thursday, 30 June 2005

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list. We will talk about that in more detail on another occasion but, as I said on the very first day of this budget, we have 5,000-odd people on the list and he gives the cool response that they have been clinically assessed, so they can wait.

Go and talk to some of the folk who are on those waiting lists and have to wait and ask them how pleasant that whole experience is. These people are not going in for cosmetic surgery. They are going in for very serious matters. The extraordinary thing is that the solutions are right at his fingertips, but they involve some courage. The VMOs appeared the other day before a public hearing and I said to them, “What would you do? What is the first thing you would do?” They said, “For a start, they will not let us commence operations that will go beyond 4 o’clock.” We are running these extremely expensive theatres and they said that they could handle more patients. They handle more at John James hospital; but under the archaic arrangements that apply at Canberra Hospital—no.

The first thing you could do is look at those sorts of areas, remove the misery that people are suffering while they wait for this inefficient arrangement to continue, try to apply some of those funds sensibly, and demonstrate some compassion for the people of Canberra, who have a not unreasonable expectation of high standards of service. These are areas in which he could apply his efforts.

Mr Corbell: Where is the money coming from?

MR MULCAHY: If you run the hospitals more efficiently, you might have some more money to play with. In relation to the ATO, I find his position completely inconsistent. They have gone there previously for rulings or for advice.

Mr Corbell: When?

MR MULCAHY: The documentation that has now got a seal on it does disclose that, as you know. Then they say they cannot get advice, and now they have gone back there again for advice. He does not want to inquire, but he has now gone off ostensibly to satisfy the opposition. I take it back again. They are saying to the employees, “Be it on your own heads if this scheme does not work.” I have never heard of such a hands-free, carefree attitude in relation to an employer’s obligation to an employee, saying, “This is how we are going to pay you.” You are saying to me that every person who is in the public sector in this town should go off and commission tax rulings to get advice that the ACT government is paying them according to law. That is an untenable position and I hope that the CPSU and the other unions that are so enthusiastic at the moment about workers’ rights will have something to say about it.

I do not want to use up time on this issue. The proof will be seen when the advice is forthcoming, but I believe that in fairness to the people who work for the public sector we need to settle that issue once and for all and see what is the correct state of play.

Mr Quinlan interjecting—

MR MULCAHY: As for expertise on payouts, Treasurer, by way of interjection, I would welcome that discussion, but I would suggest that some might rue the day if it is pursued.

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