Page 2975 - Week 08 - Thursday, 25 June 2009

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Hospitals—Calvary Public Hospital

MR SMYTH: My question is to the Minister for Health. Minister, in the Canberra Times of 11 June it was reported:

ACT Health is considering a draft heads of agreement from the company, and valuers from both camps are in talks to decide on a price tag.

Minister, an online journal called Law Talk, on heads of agreement, says:

It is a common misconception that a heads of agreement is an informal and non-binding document which merely outlines the “tentative agreement” between the parties.

Minister, can you guarantee that you have not, nor attempted to, enter into a heads of agreement with the Little Company of Mary about the sale of Calvary hospital?

MS GALLAGHER: Certainly the government has not entered into a heads of agreement with Calvary and Little Company of Mary. There is a draft heads of agreement circulating. Indeed, I spoke to Mr Tom Brennan yesterday on another matter where he indicated to me that he was going to forward the heads of agreement to me with a covering letter from himself. I have not received that correspondence yet. I expect that, true to his word, Mr Tom Brennan will forward me a draft heads of agreement document and at that point I will refer it to my agencies for follow-up advice back to me.

The government has not signed any heads of agreement, but there is the potential that in the future we may well sign a heads of agreement unless there is another way to proceed with the negotiations to reach a final point at which the government makes a decision. That decision will in turn come here to the Assembly for further discussion and approval of an appropriation bill—if it gets there. At this point in time it is not there. No agreement has been signed. As I have said in this place before, negotiations are continuing around valuations and, as part of that, negotiations have been held over a potential final heads of agreement that we may indeed want to sign at some point in the future.

MR SPEAKER: Mr Smyth, a supplementary question?

MR SMYTH: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Minister, did you attempt to sign a heads of agreement before the election?

MS GALLAGHER: No, not from my recollection at all. I will check the paperwork. The government did consider this prior to the election, to allow discussions to continue between the parties whilst the caretaker period and post-election period went through, a period of two months. I do not believe that was called a heads of agreement, but there was certainly discussion, and decisions were taken around parameters to continue the discussions during that two-month period. There was nothing that would bind future governments and nothing that agreed to a final deal. But there was certainly a decision by this government that would allow discussions to continue whilst the pre-election period and post-election period rolled out.

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