Page 5551 - Week 15 - Wednesday, 9 December 2009

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I think the community understands that this is about building up services on the north side of Canberra. It is not about taking anything away. Under the proposal as it stands, the north side of Canberra will benefit from essentially a brand-new public hospital and a brand-new private hospital. If the current arrangements continue, we will simply refurbish the existing public hospital. I know which is the more preferred option, and it is not the option that the opposition support. They are more than happy to deny the people of north Canberra a brand-new public hospital and a brand-new private hospital.

Mr Smyth: Not true.

MS GALLAGHER: Yes, you are. By opposing this deal, that is exactly what you are doing.

MR SPEAKER: Mr Hargreaves, a supplementary?

MR HARGREAVES: Yes, thank you, Mr Speaker. Minister, isn’t it true that the last time there were two public hospitals in public hands those opposite blew it up? What does that do to their credibility to join in any part of the conversation about the acquisition of public hospitals?

MS GALLAGHER: It is true that it was a decision of the former Liberal government to close the Canberra hospital and relocate services. But I think the issue around public ownership of hospitals is a current challenge. It is a challenge for this Assembly to deal with, and it is not fair that six members of this Assembly, of a 17-member Assembly, simply opt out of the discussion because they do not want to offend anybody. That is the reality—

Mr Stanhope: Gutless.

MS GALLAGHER: That is the reality, exactly—a gutless, cowardly approach because nobody wants to take this challenge head-on. No-one from the Liberal Party is prepared to understand the full range of issues that are presented around the management and ownership of the public health system in the ACT. The Liberals have opted out and they are fast becoming the most irrelevant part of this Assembly. If you continue on this path, you will become irrelevant.

MR SPEAKER: Mr Hanson, a supplementary question?

MR HANSON: Minister, are you aware that letting Calvary die a slow death was official policy while Wayne Berry was Labor health minister? Does this explain your ongoing underfunding of Calvary hospital under ACT Labor?

MS GALLAGHER: There has been no underfunding of Calvary hospital. The archbishop has his own views on that. I have met with the archbishop and showed him the detailed increases in spending at Calvary Public Hospital. I think the operating budget has almost doubled.

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