Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 08 Hansard (Thursday, 7 August 2008) . . Page.. 3082 ..
chair when I heard something to the effect of “What do they want? Shoe-shine boys and coffee?” If that is the way in which this corporation treats people who have come to them in good faith, I think they are worthy of condemnation. I have not got the audio transcript, but I am pretty sure they are the words I heard. I spoke to Mrs Burke and she has had a similar phone conversation with the person concerned.
I have spent 30 years of my life in issues management. If anybody working with me treated the public with that level of contempt, I would tell them to look for alternative employment. I thought it was a disgrace.
There are many people in the Wanniassa area who are quite distressed by this. It is not in my electorate, but I sympathise with their predicament. I do not blame the government of the day. I think this is a broader issue, with a failure of public health that goes back to decisions taken in the early 1980s, when the then government, on the basis of advice from the federal health department, thought that it would be a really clever idea to restrict the number of people going in to develop medical careers. I will be well and truly in the retirement home before catch-up occurs. We are paying the price for this stupid and short-sighted decision taken years ago in terms of not letting enough people go into medical general practice—to now get to the point where we are desperately scratching around and trying to find people from all over the world to provide medical services.
The effect this Assembly can have is to cause some measure of embarrassment to this company. I do not even know if they are publicly listed. I hope they are, because I think the Stock Exchange will be interested to hear the decision of this Assembly—it looks as though there will be a unanimous decision to raise this and investigate the matter. Let me say to the operators of this medical group that their incredible insensitivity to people in Canberra—the callous way in which they have approached this and the short notice—smacks of the worst aspects of corporate medicine.
I lived in America for a period of time. One of my children became very ill. I had the best private health cover you could imagine and it was well supported by influential people in business who were connected to medical schools. Even there I found it a struggle to get good medical treatment. I hope that in Australia we never get to that level of poor health care where callous corporate operators are interested only in the quick buck and are insensitive to the needs of patients.
I would welcome this inquiry. It will be short. It will have to come back to the Assembly quickly. It is an opportunity to air in a public hearing some of these concerns. I hope that this corporation that has ridden roughshod over its patients and over the people of Canberra gets a wake-up call and replaces the people who are making these decisions. If they are equity partners in the business, I hope they get a very loud message from the people of Canberra that their approach to doing business here is not welcome.
MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (5.11): The problem with what has happened in Wanniassa is that the public there do not know why. The patients of this practice—I understand that they number tens and tens of thousands of individuals and their families who have gone through this practice in its various iterations over many years—do not know why what on the face of it would seem to be a thriving practice in a recently renovated building—next door is having many hundreds of thousands of