23 June 2023

UPDATE: Pocock slams Federal Senate vote as attack on Territory rights

| Genevieve Jacobs
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David Pocock

Senator David Pocock: “After a 25-year battle to restore our Territory rights, I am concerned about the precedent this sets.” Photo: Supplied.

UPDATED 6:15 pm: ACT Independent Senator David Pocock has accused the Federal Coalition and Greens of setting up a Senate inquiry by “stealth” after the parties teamed up to refer a bill that seeks to amend the ACT Self-Government (Consequential Provisions) Act 1988 to a senate committee for inquiry.

It could potentially open up the chance for the Senate to launch an inquiry into the compulsory acquisition of Calvary Public Hospital Bruce.

Mr Pocock abstained from voting on Queensland Nationals Senator Matt Canavan’s private bill on Thursday (22 June); however, he does support an inquiry at an ACT Government level.

While he acknowledged the concerns expressed by some in the community about the compulsory acquisition, he slammed the referral of the bill as the Federal government looking to meddle in Territory business.

“The ACT Legislative Assembly’s Health and Community Standing Committee on Health and Community Wellbeing was in the process of considering my request to the ACT Government to hold an inquiry into this matter,” he said.

“Today, we saw interstate federal senate colleagues from the Coalition and the Greens team up to interfere in an ACT Government issue.

“After a 25-year battle to restore our Territory rights, I am concerned about the precedent this sets.”

He expressed fears the federal inquiry could potentially be highly politicised rather than a “genuine attempt” to properly examine the process which led to the ACT Government’s decision to acquire the land.

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Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith has also weighed in on the developments, stating that committee consideration of legislation was standard process but she wasn’t happy with the decision.

“It’s very frustrating at some level that the Senate has recently voted to uphold Territory rights in relation to removing those restrictions in the Self-Government Act around our capacity to make our own decision on voluntary assisted dying, and then are now debating another bill to restrict Territory rights,” she said.

“We don’t believe there is any need for this bill.”

She said the decision would not impact the process of transitioning the northside hospital to Canberra Health Services.

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith and Chief Minister Andrew Barr

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith and Chief Minister Andrew Barr. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

UPDATED 3:40 pm: ACT Health’s plans to seamlessly transition Calvary Hospital into the public system may hit another road bump with the surprise news that the Senate will mount an inquiry regarding the acquisition after federal Greens and Coalition senators banded together today.

Independent ACT senator David Pocock abstained from the vote for a second time, despite supporting the need for an inquiry into the takeover. He’s previously cited concerns regarding the Commonwealth’s right to intervene in matters that would otherwise be outside its jurisdiction.

Last week, Liberal Senator Michaelia Cash described the contentious plans to take over the Little Company of Mary’s property, previously operated with public funding under a long lease arrangement, as a “sordid affair”. 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?”

Nationals Senator Matt Canavan then attempted to refer the takeover to the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee, but the bid 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 related issues.

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Today, however, federal Greens have made a Senate inquiry possible by combining with the Coalition. The ACT Greens form a key part of the Labor coalition that governs the ACT and have sided with the Chief Minister’s takeover plans.

Senator Canavan’s Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Amendment Bill 2023 was designed to require the ACT Government to investigate the compulsory acquisition.

The federal parliamentary Greens have now thrown their support behind an amendment asking that “in respect of the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Amendment Bill 2023, the bill be referred immediately to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 9 August 2023”.

Senator David Pocock abstained from the first vote last Thursday (15 June) on the grounds that while an inquiry may be necessary, it should be at the level of government that made the decision.

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Whilst I might not agree with all he does, it is nice to see a Senator for the ACT actually being interested in affairs of the ACT.

That certainly did not happen between 7 September 2013 to 20 May 2022.

@Zhi Goh
Agree 100% … while the decision and/or process of the ACT Government’s takeover at Calvary is definitely questionable, Pocock has correctly acknowledged it’s a matter to be sorted within the ACT without Federal interference.

@ Zhi Goh & JustSaying – Agree totally!!!!!! Zed voted against the wishes of the territory, when he voted at which wasn’t often. He was smug on a comfy wicket until people woke up to him. Pocock is a keen advocate for Canberra.

Pocock was elected to represent the people not the ACT government as he is doing. If there’s nothing to hide then why should he not support the investigation. If he doesn’t represent the people as he’d promised then he will end up a one term Senator.

@Mark Reber
Pocock has always stated he stands for Territory rights – i.e. the ACT Government’s right to make laws for its own citizens without interference from the Commonwealth.

It seems you are against the ACT government’s decision to takeover Calvary … so obviously Territory rights only apply when it suits you. At least Pocock is not a hypocrite.

If they’ve got nothing to hide then they have nothing to fear.

“Mr Pocock abstained from voting on Queensland Nationals Senator Matt Canavan’s private bill on Thursday (22 June); however, he does support an inquiry at an ACT Government level.”

So he’s advocating for the ACT government to investigate itself? How does he expect that “investigation” to go? …or was that exactly the point, a sham investigation with zero accountability to appear like they were doing something?

He is representing the ACT government not the people. This takeover smells very bad by the way it was done.

@Mark Reber
He is representing the democratically elected ACT Government’s right to make laws for its own citizens without interference from the Commonwealth.

Pocock enjoyed the taxpayer funded Winter ball though

And your point is???

As usual, FP, you don’t let facts get in the way of your rants against politicians – https://midwinterball.com.au/tickets/

… oh and by the way, as noted in this article (https://www.afr.com/politics/federal/mps-and-a-voice-dress-sparkle-at-the-midwinter-ball-20230622-p5dihu) it raised more than $362,500 for charity organisations

Guaranteed the cost of running the ball was way more than that. May as well sent a hat around at question time, would have been better economically.

JS, I know that you love pollies. I don’t, and I am allowed too. It is a democracy

FP, I don’t necessarily love pollies – I just don’t like it when people make false statements about them. You have every right to not like them – you don’t have the right to fabricate false facts.

One chamber assembly quickly pushing important legislation through deserves scrutiny Dave.

HiddenDragon8:25 pm 22 Jun 23

When the knee-jerk parochial outrage settles down, some people might realise that this inquiry will be an opportunity to look into aspects of the ACT public health system which would never see the light of day in a tightly stage managed Legislative Assembly inquiry.

The Fedral coalition is always talking about the Canberra bubble. Never has too much good to talk to say about the territory or its people. All I can imagine is that this is an opportunity to somehow implicate federal labour in an affair that is purely a territory matter with no federal political involvement.

What a grubby turnaround by the Federal Greens. They really have no principles.

Really? I interpreted it as the exact opposite. Even they realised that changing the law to get out of a legal contract was dodgy and should be scrutinised. When your own allies decided to team up with the opposition political party to investigate your actions, you know that you may have gone a tad too far this time.

What a grubby turnabout by the Federal Greens.

Haven’t these Federal politicians got more important things on which to focus? Interfering in territory politics, whilst avoiding properly supporting territory finances, is just wrong.

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