4 May 2023

'They’re the ones who have broken it': Libs call for royal commission into 'worst performing' health system

| Claire Fenwicke
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Jeremy Hanson and Leanne Castley

Canberra Liberals acting leader Jeremy Hanson and shadow health minister Leanne Castley clasping a redacted government health FOI document. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

Only a royal commission into the ACT’s healthcare system will rectify the current issues now and into the future – that’s the stance of the Canberra Liberals, promising to take the issue to the next election.

“If you look at the deterioration of our healthcare system over a decade, we used to have the best-performing health system in Australia, now we’ve got the worst performing,” Acting Leader Jeremy Hanson said.

“The government’s repeated assurances that they’re going to fix it – they’re the ones that have been in government for 21 years. They’re the ones who have broken it.”

The ACT has the power to hold such an inquiry under the Royal Commissions Act 1991, but one has never been held in the Territory.

The Canberra Liberals want the current government to commit to holding a healthcare royal commission before the next election, but Mr Hanson said the party could wait for the recommendations to be published after the 2024 votes came in.

“We don’t want this to be a political issue. What we want is to fix the health system,” Mr Hanson said.

“Surely whoever is the health minister [after the election] would want the sort of information, the recommendations, the advice, from a royal commission, and to dismiss it and say, ‘we’re not going to do it because we’ve got all the answers’, is rubbish.”

If the current government doesn’t agree, the Canberra Liberals have committed to holding one if they gain power.

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Our healthcare system has been found to be lacking, with the country’s longest wait times in emergency departments, extensive wait times for elective surgery, the Fetal Medicine Unit losing its training accreditation, poor culture and systemic issues, and patient privacy breaches.

Health spending makes up about a third of the ACT’s budget.

While royal commissions are known to be expensive and lengthy processes, Mr Hanson said it would be worth it.

“It is a small amount of money that’s worth it to fix the healthcare system,” he said.

“It will take time, it will take resources, but that’s what’s necessary. Just having limited, spot fire reviews, trying to put out limited problems as they arise, isn’t the answer here.”

Shadow Health Minister Leanne Castley added a royal commission was just one idea the party had to improve our healthcare system.

While she wouldn’t elaborate on what those other ideas were, she said policies were being formulated ahead of the election.

“This is the best place to start because we have heard of so many issues across the board, so understanding the crux of the situation and working out the best way forward,” she said.

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Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith rejected the need for a royal commission, stating recent whole-of-system reviews and strategies meant the government already had a clear understanding of the issues being faced now and into the future.

“It’s very difficult to see how a royal commission could take a broader approach than we [already] have,” she said.

Ms Stephen-Smith described royal commissions as a great vehicle for truth-telling, especially for marginalised communities or areas where there hasn’t been transparency.

But she said ACT’s healthcare wasn’t a place where this would be effective.

“There’s a lot of transparency, there is a lot of sunshine on this, and there are a lot of plans in place and reviews that have been done to already identify the challenges, and now our work is to get on and implement [them],” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

“Of course, we’ve got challenges in our healthcare system, but these are not unknown challenges.”

Ms Stephen-Smith viewed the announcement as an indication the Canberra Liberals had no alternatives to offer and said a royal commission would just delay change.

“They can’t see anything that could be done differently from what the government is already doing at the moment,” she said.

“These challenges exist now. The ACT Government is acting now. We’ve got the plans and strategies in place and we’re already starting to implement those.”

Rachel Stephen-Smith with health students

Rachel Stephen-Smith met with University of Canberra teachers and students as part of the ACT Health Workforce Strategy 2023-2032 announcement. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

One of those plans is the ACT Health Workforce Strategy 2023-2032, announced on Thursday (4 May) to attract and retain more staff.

It identified eight priority areas to target specific workforce needs, with 23 actions either already underway or about to commence.

These include collecting data on when staff members plan to retire to fill their roles, implementing the Health Workforce Wellbeing and Recovery Fund, improving career pathways into health for people with disabilities, and developing a discussion paper on barriers and opportunities to increase flexibility, and mobility across the healthcare system.

Ms Stephen-Smith said this would continue improving and strengthening our healthcare system into the future.

“We are never going to have a perfect health system, such a thing does not exist anywhere in Australia or anywhere in the world,” she said.

“What we do have is a holistic plan, through the ACT Health Services Plan released last year, and now a 10-year Workforce Strategy to address the challenges we already know that we face.”

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HiddenDragon8:48 pm 05 May 23

A royal commission into the current model of self-government and/or ACT government administration would be more relevant, because the problems at the heart of the ACT public health system are likely to be similar in nature to the problems facing other major service delivery functions in the ACT, including education and the corrections system.

Aside from the eternal problem of funding, many of the issues would relate back to the challenges of recruiting and retaining the right people in a system which is too small to offer the opportunities and rewards of larger state systems and which is thus prone to being a Plan B or a short(ish) term stepping stone for people who would rather be somewhere else.

If the ACT Liberals want to stick with the idea of a health royal commission, they at least need to be upfront about how they would meet the inevitable recommendations for increased health funding – without that, there would not be much point in running a major inquiry and it would not be plausible with voters.

ACT Health is terrible. Don’t get sick in the ACT as the services are woeful.

Victor Bilow4:57 pm 05 May 23

Until the people of Canberra unlock from this one party vote and try another party, this ACT government will do as they please, It’s called the Barr, Rattenbury 21 year incompetent management system. Until you try you will never, never know.
Even that Putin nutter has bullied his power for 18 Years + 4 behind the scenes and look at the mess he is making. (Go Ukraine.)

The issue is the Liberals are *worse*

Completely useless as an opposition. They rely on public funding to avoid financial collapse and have long disappeared up their own backside.

We need a better opposition. Jeremy is a self absorbed smug joke.

Regardless of the politics and rantings about LIbs and Labor, if a government does not listen to those that have had direct experiences with any problems they faced in our hospital system them they are in denial. There should be a RC into this as it could highlight those issues and allow them to be addressed. Regardless of who is in power then at least has a chance to respond. Currently the Government Rachel Stevens-Smith believes all is well and she has identified problems and has remedies in place to fix them. How wrong and out of touch is she and she only puts up smoke screens.

The Canberra Liberals are what is broken. Over 20 years in opposition and their last review just blames Canberra (again) for not voting for them. So back to Jeremy Hansen and his obvious desperate need for ego and relevance. Another sad angry old man like all their members yelling at clouds.

Perhaps if the Canberra Liberals were actually electable then we would care what they think?

What Canberra needs is a better opposition.

All Jeremy cares about is Jeremy and his silly “gotchas”.

Is this the best talent the Canberra Liberals have?

Yep .. I’m sure Labor are really scared now

How out of touch can a party be?


Conveniently forgets to mention that Labor has been in power for 21 years because, as mediocre as they are, they are still an infinitely better option than the lacklustre and incompetent alternative the libs trot out each election time. If you want us to vote differently, then give us something to vote for (combination of better quality candidates and policies that are just rehashes of the same old negativity each time).

I propose a Royal Commission be held into the ACT Liberals and why they haven’t been an effective opposition for over 20 years now!

Well they just had a review…

Concluding that Canberra is the problem. Not them. Seriously.

All this negative sniping from the sidelines by the Canberra Liberals. Unfortunately, they remain silent on how they will tackle the challenges faced by all governments. Health, law and order, poverty, homelessness, transport, infrastructure etc. etc. This is particularly pertinent after the rorting and meanness we saw as we pick ourselves up after 10 years of a federal Liberal government.
For me, I am particularly looking forward to the party releasing its health policies. Health is multidimensional and Jeremy Hanson is renowned for cherry picking reports on the Canberra health and education systems. His militant views on education, health, law and order and drug law reforms are clear. Hopefully the Canberra Liberals will release their policies soon and not leave it to the last minute like they usually do in the leadup to elections. We are only 17 months away from the next ACT election and time is moving fast. Voters need to make informed decisions.
And I do have to ask the question which I have posed recently. Just who is the Canberra Liberals’ health spokesperson? Has there been a reshuffle of portfolios in the party? I know Jeremy is now the acting leader but Leanne Castley, apparently shadow Health spokesperson seems to have been missing in action and sidelined. In the last few months Mr Hanson seems to be front and centre when fronting the media in this portfolio. Now he is there holding her hand. Is she up to the task (I suspect not)? I couldn’t imagine CM Andrew Barr holding health minister Rachel Stephen Smith’s hand whenever she fronts the media.

Health is an absolute shambles in the ACT, yet Jack D cuts and pastes that the Liberals are the problem and should be the focus.

Such meaningless partisanship is exactly why Health has been allowed to slide so far.

Forgetting Jack D’s perspective on the Liberals, chewy14, is it not reasonable to ask them (Liberals) to tell the voting ACT public what they will do to resolve the obvious issues with the Health system?

This article is literally about the Liberals calling for a Royal Commission to investigate the fundamental problems and recommend solutions that they apparently would follow. How is that not giving you what you ask for?

The question is, if the current government already believes it knows what the problems are and what should be done, they’ve had 20+ years to act. Instead health performance has gotten worse.

If they don’t know what the problems are, why wouldn’t they want to find out?

Neither option paints the current government in a good light and focusing on the Liberals just ensures the current government don’t need to do anything because people like Jack will never change their vote.

Actually no that’s not how we read it – which is that Canberra *wants* someone else to vote for but climate-denying ego driven Jeremy and the rest of that circus don’t *want* to be elected. It’s a well known tradition that the Canberra Liberals are happy in opposition where they don’t have to actually do anything and just collect public money to be a social club for angry old men (like Jeremy) to yell at clouds and just say “No” to everything and pop up occasionally like this man-splaining how bad things are because they can’t allow a woman to explain this even if she is (apparently) the “alternative” health minister.

If the Canberra Liberals were serious about presenting a credible alternative (which they’re not) they would have a completely refreshed selection of candidates and more progressive views in line with the Canberra Community. Their membership has collapsed and they like it that way.

John Cziesla, the party president, openly blames Canberra and “the Left” (whatever that means) for not voting for them rather than attempt to change in any way which they smugly dismiss as being “Labor-lite” or some trite nonsense.

What we need is an inquiry in to what value the Canberra rate and tax payers get for funding this failed opposition.

Jeremy has achieved nothing in his political career and just repeats the same boring talking points over and over – it’s all about him and his ego – not Canberra. Jeremy never really left the army and just demands everyone march to his tune – as this picture shows. No one knows who the other lady is in this battle of the ego’s among these “Conservatives” who still dominate the party.



Oh, my bad. So the Liberal party needs a “Royal Commission” to formulate a policy to take to the next election? OK – got it.

“Oh, my bad”

Apology accepted.

Although you’re still in error in thinking that they don’t have a policy and won’t develop more prior to the next election, which was the entire point. I’m sure you’ll get it next time, no worries.

JS – no, they need a miracle

I raise legitimate questions chewy for the Liberals to answer. I and many others would welcome an opposition party that truly represents Canberra voters. A party that provides strength and effectiveness and drives good policy. The party snipes away on the sidelines but remains silent on how they will tackle the challenges of a large and multi-faceted health system. A portfolio that services both ACT and NSW residents. Health is a challenge for all governments. The Liberals also remain silent on how they will tackle other important policy areas including law and order, poverty, homelessness, transport and infrastructure.
The party has been calling for a number of government inquiries lately into various portfolios and now want a royal commission, funded by the public. A royal commission costing taxpayers many millions of dollars which will inform their policy positions at the next election.
The opposition health spokesperson is Leanne Castley which reveals the dearth of talent within the party. Jeremy Hanson has become increasingly vocal in the health portfolio over the last few months. Ms Castley has become less visible and is now left to ask inane questions in sittings or accompany him while he fronts the media. Doing all the talking, she is left to stand behind him nodding obediently.
The Canberra Liberals are a party that has moved further to the extreme right led by a bunch of conservative and angry old white men. The party’s elected representatives barely scrape in at elections and are beholden to the right-wing brigade who dominate the party. Parliamentary sittings are now overshadowed by the angriest in the party, Hanson, Cain, Cocks and Kikkert to shout and yell inanities across the chamber.

Not according to chewy14, FP – apparently they have a policy (https://canberraliberals.org.au/our-policies) and it will be expanded upon.

And yet you don’t pay anywhere near as much attention to the actual recorded woeful performance of the parties in charge over decades. To the absolute dearth of talent and policy dished up by those in charge.

Almost like you aren’t really interested in having a well functioning government at all and are more interested in your “team” being in charge.

Bob the impala6:52 pm 05 May 23

Chewryl4, where is this policy of which you speak?

An effective opposition may not be sufficient for a well-functioning government but it is necessary.
Analogously, I might be a terrible runner yet I can thrash someone who merely ties themselves to a tree, yelling imprecations at my neglect of losing.

Adults are back in charge on Capital Hill8:17 pm 04 May 23

It is not just an ACT issue, there are issues around the country with our healthcare system and the public hospital system. The Feds under the LNP from 2013-2022 did SFA to rectify the issues, so for the ACT Libs to come out with this phoney policy agenda is laughable.

ACT residents I am sure are smart enough to smell a fake when they see one!

Ross of Canberra7:52 pm 04 May 23

Thanks Jeremy.

GrumpyGrandpa4:58 pm 04 May 23

With all of this transparency the Minister is talking about, how come it’s taken 2O plus years in government to work out the problems?
I recently spent 8 hrs in the ED before I was seen by a Dr.

Finagen_Freeman4:48 pm 04 May 23

What a farce. Only an independent review (without financial gain going to a big 4 consulting firm) can expose what’s going on. Lack of forward planning, and lots of b.s. from executive and minister have got us to where we are.

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