15 June 2023

Coalition attempt to force Senate inquiry into Calvary takeover falls short

| Andrew McLaughlin
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Calvary Public Hospital Bruce

An attempt by federal LNP Senators to force a Senate inquiry into the Calvary takeover has failed. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

A bid by federal Coalition members to establish a Senate inquiry into the ACT Government’s forced acquisition of Calvary Hospital has failed to gain any traction on Thursday (15 June).

On 14 June, LNP Senator Michaelia Cash described the takeover as a “sordid affair”, and she and fellow Senator Anne Ruston called for a Senate inquiry.

“The ACT Government’s hostile takeover of the Calvary Hospital is a worrying sign for ACT residents in need of health services,” Senator Ruston said in a statement. “It sets a dangerous precedent for other vital religious health services, including aged care homes – what will this Labor Government do next?”

An attempt on Thursday by LNP Senator Matt Canavan to refer the takeover to the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee failed by two votes, with 26 ayes and 28 nays.

The inquiry would have reportedly sought details on the impact on health services in the ACT and surrounds, the takeover’s effects on other private health providers, the consultation processes before making the decision, any legal and economic implications of the takeover, and other related matters.

READ ALSO Formal transition of Calvary Public Hospital Bruce to ACT Government begins

ACT independent Senator David Pocock abstained after seeking to draw a vote on two separate amendments. “I believe there should be an inquiry but it should be at the level of government that made the decision,” he told Parliament.*

In a separate statement this morning, Senator Pocock said he has received concerns from his constituents and has passed them on to ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith.

“I have also requested they consider conducting an inquiry in the Legislative Assembly into the handling of the acquisition and the impacts it will have on peoples’ access to healthcare in our city and our region,” he said in the statement.

“The territories are already disadvantaged when it comes to our democratic rights and representation compared to the states. I do not believe we should be ceding even more control to the Commonwealth,” he added. “I will not advocate for our rights as a territory then turn around and cherry-pick particular decisions to be the subject of federal intervention or review where there was no decision making power for the Commonwealth.

“Canberrans want and deserve a better healthcare system than what we have currently and that’s what we need to focus our energy on delivering,” Senator Pocock said.

“I’ve been pushing the federal government to do more in the areas over which they do have jurisdiction, like addressing the severe shortage of GPs in our city.”

READ ALSO Court dismisses Calvary Health Care’s application to have acquisition law ruled invalid

In a brief comment to media today, Mr Barr said he was pleased the Senate inquiry didn’t get through, and that he thought the move was heavily laced with politics. “It’s sort of curious that the only time that [the Coalition] are interested in anything that goes on in Canberra is when they can seek to pick a culture war fight,” he said.

He also said it was appropriate that the takeover be scrutinised in the Assembly, and that there will also be a budget estimates process next month. “There’s no shortage of scrutiny in relation to the matter,” he said.

The failure of the Senate inquiry bid seems to mean the takeover is now a fait accompli, after an attempt by Calvary to have the move ruled invalid in the ACT Supreme Court was dismissed, and the subsequent appointment by Calvary of a transition lead.

*Amended for clarity regarding Senator Pocock’s vote

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I read in the media that the Canberra Liberals are pursuing this matter using their federal counterparts to once again trample the ACT government’s legal democratic processes and its laws. This follows a Supreme Court decision to dismiss Calvary’s legal challenge against the ACT government for its forced takeover of Calvary Hospital and a failed bid by the federal coalition to force a Senate inquiry.
The Canberra Liberals have used a well trodden path over the years in their endeavours to use their federal colleagues to undermine the legal decision-making processes of our elected government and obstruct it in governing and making laws that the Liberal party do not agree. This includes actively railing against transgender rights and marriage equality, drug and health care reforms and the rights of women to access health care and contraceptive services.
The Canberra Liberals are proving once again just how unelectable and incapable of governing they are. Led by right-wing and ex-military man Jeremy Hanson the party’s representatives are influenced by religious and far right fringe groups. A party that has been in opposition in the ACT for over two decades.

I voted for David Pocock because we needed true representation for the citizens of the ACT which his Liberal predecessor never did. I must say he has damaged his credibility because of his inaction to represent the interest of the people here by not supporting an enquiry into the ACT Government’s forced takeover of Calvary Hospital. An enquiry will have disclosed how it had happened. He has not as he promised represented the true interests of the ACT people covering up the ACT Government’s action. Why????

Bob the impala7:35 pm 17 Jun 23

Mark Reber, what if David Pocock is in fact representing the interests of the people, which happens not in this case to include you?

@Mark Reber
One of Pocock’s key pre-election policies was “Territory rights”. In fact on his policy page Pocock states: “I will support legislation that would restore the ACT Government’s right to make laws for its own citizens without interference from the Commonwealth”.

So whether or not he agrees with the ACT government’s decision to forcibly take over Calvary, he is sticking to his promise to support the ACT government’s right to make such decisions.

Perhaps you have forgotten, Calvary’s bid to block the takeover was dismissed by the ACT Supreme Court.

So, how do you justify your stance that Pocock has damaged his credibility?

@Mark Reber

Your vote for David Pocock doesn’t come with “He has to do vote according to what I want.” unfortunately.

This decision has been upheld by the highest courts, the matter is settled. Calvary brought this up on themselves is the majority’s view on this matter in the Territory. I’m sorry you don’t share the view, but that’s also part of democracy.

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