Academic journal article The Australian Journal of Politics and History

Australian Capital Territory: July to December, 2009

Academic journal article The Australian Journal of Politics and History

Australian Capital Territory: July to December, 2009

Article excerpt

Economic recovery in the Australian Capital Terrritory appeared to be slower than the rest of the nation, although the federal public service was planning to recruit an extra 1,000 public servants over the 2009-10 financial year (Canberra Times, 15, 21 July 2009). The Australian Capital Territory finished the 2008-09 financial year with a surplus of $14.3 million, according to interim financial results (Stanhope media release, 14 August 2009). Chief Minister Jon Stanhope identified better than expected housing and labour markets as the key drivers, and put it down to the federal government's stimulus package. Stanhope also claimed his government had completed or substantially progressed all but one of its Canberra Social Plan's sixty-nine actions, due for completion before Canberra's 2013 centenary (Canberra Times, 29 December 2009). The Liberals questioned the progress on several of the goals, particularly surgery waiting lists, which contracted but still remained among the longest in Australia at an average of seventy-two days. Emergency waiting times in the Australian Capital Territory's public hospitals improved slightly despite record demand (Canberra Times, 3 September 2009). However, the ACT GP Taskforce found that the territory lacks seventy-two full-time GPs and has the lowest bulk-billing rate in Australia (Canberra Times, 16 September 2009).

Health Care and the Role of Non-Government Providers

The government and the Catholic Church's Little Company of Mary were on the verge of signing a heads of agreement whereby the government would buy the Calvary hospital and transfer ownership of the palliative care facility, Clare Holland House, to the Little Company of Mary (Canberra Times, 22 July 2009). The Commonwealth gifted the hospital site and buildings to the Little Company of Mary under a ninety-nine-year lease in 1971, and the federal and territory governments have always provided full funding for the hospital's operations (Canberra Times, 4 November 2009). Some critics of the sale argued that the government should take it back without providing compensation under the terms of the lease. The Liberals indicated they would vote against the sale, arguing that the $77 million could be better spent on directly reducing elective surgery waiting lists (Canberra Times, 9 November 2009).

There was also community opposition to selling Clare Holland House to the Little Company of Mary, but Stanhope conceded that while the government was prepared to split the sale of the hospital and the hospice, the Little Company of Mary was not (Canberra Times, 13 November 2009). Even former Labor minister John Hargreaves and retired Labor speaker Wayne Berry (senior figures from both the right and left factions) expressed opposition (Canberra Times, 1 December 2009). Katy Gallagher (who is also the Treasurer) argued that the alternative was to build a third public hospital, which was unsustainable (Canberra Times, 9 October 2009). She claimed that Calvary requires more than $200 million in capital expenditure, which would double the Australian Capital Territory's annual budget deficit without government ownership. Furthermore, Gallagher argued that the Greens were bound by their Parliamentary Agreement not to vote down the sale, as it would be part of the budget bills to save the Australian Capital Territory $145 million over the next twenty years (Canberra Times, 2 December 2009). Unsurprisingly, the Greens disagreed with this interpretation, and finally decided not to support the sale if it included Clare Holland House (Canberra Times, 18 December).

Law and Disorder

The Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety was collecting evidence into the need for reforming the Australian Capital Territory's definition of murder in line with other states and territories (Canberra Times, 22 July 2009). Attorney-General Simon Corbell appeared before the committee to argue for amending legislation to classify offences where the accused intends to inflict serious harm and the victim dies as murder rather manslaughter. …

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