Page 5180 - Week 14 - Wednesday, 18 November 2009

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I have raised my concerns with other participants in the meeting, as I did not think that what was written in that article reflected a true record of the meeting that occurred, and I have had confirmation back, from certainly the archbishop, that there were not minutes taken of that meeting. I have got that in writing from the archbishop, and indeed from Bishop Pat Power, who also confirmed for me that there were no minutes taken at that meeting.

So there were no threats made. The meeting was very cordial, very respectful, and indeed I had another meeting with the archbishop yesterday to again confirm the government’s commitment to work cooperatively with the Catholic Church, and indeed with the Little Company of Mary, regardless of the outcome of the proposal that is on the table, and I think that meeting was very constructive.

MR SPEAKER: Mr Seselja, a supplementary question?

MR SESELJA: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Minister, given that you did not take any record or notes of the meeting, what did you base your letter to the Australian of 4 November on?

MS GALLAGHER: My participation in that meeting. The message of the meeting, and, indeed, the reason that we asked to meet with the archbishop, was that the government were considering a proposal to purchase Calvary Public Hospital. We understood and respected the interest of the Catholic archbishop in that proposal. We met with him and the local bishop to put to them the issues that faced the ACT government—the challenges that faced us. Indeed, I believe there is an understanding of those challenges from the archbishop and the bishop.

Whilst he does not agree—and we agreed yesterday to disagree on the proposal—with the sale of Calvary Public Hospital to the government, he did acknowledge the challenges that face the government in terms of how we finance the rebuild of the north side public hospital, how we manage that cost, how we deal with it in terms of budget decisions, and, indeed, whether or not—and this is at the heart of the proposal—the people of the ACT want to gift $200 million to a third-party organisation. They were the issues that we put to the archbishop.

We also, at that meeting, indicated that the other option for the government to consider was the building of a third hospital, which, again, I have discounted a number of times. But they were certainly things that we have analysed and considered, as well as how we make the arrangements for the status quo work. But there were no threats given. This debate has not been around a Catholic or anti-Catholic sentiment at all. It has been about how we genuinely manage the future healthcare needs of this city.

MR SPEAKER: Mr Hanson, a supplementary question?

MR HANSON: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Minister, why wasn’t anyone from the ACT government taking notes of such an important meeting?

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