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Monday, 23 March 1987
Page: 1112

Senator GILES —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Can he advise the Senate of the state of the current negotiations between the Government and the Australian Capital Territory doctors?

Senator WALSH —Mr Scholes announced last Friday that he had agreed to an Australian Medical Association request to meet the Australian Capital Territory doctors and a meeting was arranged by his office with the President of the AMA, Dr Jones. Dr Jones had agreed to meet Mr Scholes and Mr Willis on 23 March at 8 p.m.-that is, tonight-along with two other members of the AMA. Later last Friday Dr Jones asked the Minister whether the three-member AMA delegation could be extended to include the AMA's negotiating group. Mr Scholes also agreed to that request. The letter written by Mr Scholes to Dr Jones said among other things:

I will be happy to meet representatives of the profession to discuss the Government's offer and the AMA claim.

In the interim period the AMA inserted a full page advertisement in the Canberra Times which said at the bottom `the doctors want to talk'. Notwithstanding that advertisement and perhaps in keeping with the attitude of the doctors throughout this dispute and their misrepresentation of the facts-with the collaboration of the Canberra Times to a significant extent in misrepresenting the facts-having sought a meeting with the Government and having told us that it wants to talk, the AMA is now demanding as a precondition of attending the meeting that the Government be prepared to offer a figure higher than that already offered. I hope that finally the Canberra Times will publish this fact. If it does not do so I will write a letter to the editor and try to get it published by that means. The Australian Capital Territory doctors are demanding a $425 a week pay increase for a part time job-for a job on which the doctors spend one-quarter of their time they are demanding a $425 a week pay increase. I think it is about time the Canberra Times in particular and the Press in general reported that simple fact, particularly when the Canberra Times has seen fit to publish on page 2 of its issue today the assertion that the nation cannot afford a $10 a week pay increase. It cannot afford $10 a week, apparently, for people who are on $250 a week but it can, implicitly, afford a $425 a week pay grab by the Australian Capital Territory doctors for their part time job which occupies about one-quarter of their working time. I might add that I think it is about time that the Press in general stood up the Leader of the Opposition and asked him whether the Opposition supports this rapacious pay grab by the doctors union for a $425 a week pay increase for a part time-that is, quarter time-job.

The Government had already offered the Australian Medical Association a 21 per cent increase in fee for service-a rate which would bring Australian Capital Territory doctors into line with the highest rates of fee for service available across Australia-but that is not enough for the doctors union, the AMA.

Senator Walters —We would not give it to them.

Senator WALSH —What does Senator Walters think about it? Does she support the doctors union in its demand for almost a 100 per cent pay increase? Senator Walters supports the doctors union.

Senator Walters —Mr President, I raise a point of order. Senator Walsh asked me what I thought of the matter. I had already said that we would not give the increase to the doctors.

The PRESIDENT —There is no point of order.

Senator WALSH —I am pleased that Senator Walters would not give it to them. I just wish her temporary Leader had enough courage to stand up and say the same thing. So far, despite all his ranting and raving about militant unionism and compulsory unionism, he has decided to remain silent about the matter. An increase of $10 a week is too much for people on $250 a week but $100 a week is not enough for doctors for a part time job! The doctors union demands $425 a week.

Turning to another fact that is worth noting in this saga of hypocrisy and misrepresentation, it was reported in the West Australian news- paper last Thursday under the heading `AMA call for closed shop':

A former federal president of the Australian Medical Association-one of Australia's most politically conservative organisations-has backed the introduction of compulsory unionism-

I emphasise, compulsory unionism-

for doctors. Dr Lindsay Thomson said that he believed mandatory membership of the AMA was the only way to maintain high medical standards by self-regulation.

For `high medical standards by self-regulation' read `bloated doctors' incomes' through the imposition of a closed shop and compulsory unionism so that doctors will be able to get away with demanding a $425m a week pay increase for a part time job.

Senator Chaney —Mr President, I take a point of order. I suggest that the Minister has moved well into debating the question. He seems to become over-excited whenever he raises this matter. He is now clearly debating the whole matter and I would ask you to call him to order to allow us to move on to the next question.

The PRESIDENT —The Minister is beginning to debate the question and I would ask him to answer as briefly as possible. I am also aware of some discontent about the number of questions that have been asked at Question Time. I ask all Ministers answering questions and all senators asking questions to be as brief as possible, and likewise with points of order.

Senator WALSH —Certainly, Mr President. I note Senator Chaney's support for Dr Thompson's demands for a closed shop and compulsory unionism for doctors and I presume that that sentiment is endorsed by his Leader.

Senator Chaney —On a point of order, Mr President: That is a gross misrepresentation of the point of order which was made. I seek a withdrawal. The Minister said that I have supported the closed shop proposal in a circumstance in which my Party has said it will seek a constitutional amendment to prevent closed shops, whether on the part of this organisation or any other. I seek a withdrawal from the Minister of the clear misrepresentation of what was said in the last couple of minutes.

The PRESIDENT —Senator Walsh, the Leader of the Opposition has asked that you withdraw the remark. I ask you to withdraw.

Senator WALSH —I certainly withdraw if that is not Senator Chaney's position. It is not my intention to misrepresent him, Mr President. I seek urgent confirmation from his Leader, if he is still there this afternoon, that that is also the policy of the Opposition-that the Opposition opposes the doctors union's attempt to get compulsory unionism and a closed shop.