Calvary to take legal action against ACT Government
Calvary is ready to take legal action against the ACT Government’s proposed acquisition of Calvary Public Hospital, stating the “unrealistic timeline” has distressed staff and could put patients at risk.
In a statement released today, Calvary said a legal challenge was the only response left available if the debate on the Bill was not adjourned to make room for genuine discourse.
The Health Infrastructure Enabling Bill is expected to pass on Wednesday, allowing the government to compulsorily acquire the hospital from 3 July.
Calvary has been frustrated by the ACT Government’s refusal to consider any meaningful options to resolve negotiations since the introduction of the Bill on 11 May.
“Our review of the proposed legislation and associated regulation indicates that just terms are simply not available, and outside of this, there is no indication that commercial terms are available to resolve this matter,” Calvary National Chief Executive Martin Bowles said.
“All we have is an announcement and an imposed unrealistic timeline that has distressed our people and could ultimately put clinical safety at risk.”
The proposed legislation was created for the ACT Government to compulsorily acquire the whole of Calvary’s public hospital enterprise, including its land, the public hospital assets and other rights that Calvary has under the existing lease and Network Agreements.
Head of the Save Calvary taskforce Fr Tony Percy said the issue was bigger than Calvary.
“What’s at stake here is not the Labor Party, not the Catholic church, but the rights of ordinary citizens to have proper land and property rights,” he said.
“Over 33,000 people have signed the Save Calvary Petition – however, it seems, we have yet to be heard.”
Canberra-Goulburn Archbishop Christopher Prowse urged the ACT Government to return to the negotiating table in an effort to halt the compulsory acquisition.
The Archbishop has recently met with Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith and Chief Minister Andrew Barr.
“We had a cordial meeting and shared concerns from both sides,” Archdiocese Chancellor Patrick McArdle said.
“The Chief Minister indicated various reasons why he wasn’t prepared to adjust his timetable, though acknowledged it would all move to a new phase of discussion with Calvary about the nature of just terms.
“The Archbishop said he was desirous of open lines of communication between the ACT Government and the Church which could enable dialogue to achieve the common good.”
The Australian Catholics Bishops Conference wrote to the Prime Minister last week, saying the forced takeover would set a dangerous precedent.
“Never before has a federal, state or territory government sought to compulsorily acquire the assets, staff and clients of a Church institution, thus subsuming or ending its ministry,” the letter read.
“Will other Catholic institutions or other religious providers find themselves in a similar situation having their assets compulsorily acquired and their ministries taken from them?”
The bishops said the actions of the ACT Government had alarmed not only the owners, management, staff and patients of Calvary Hospital but also the broader Catholic community in Australia and members of all faith communities.
“The ACT Government has to this date failed to offer a plausible rationale for achieving its goals via compulsory acquisition rather than mutual agreement,” they wrote.
“Legislation was drafted without appropriate forewarning and the government is seemingly dispensing itself from the requirements of the Land Acquisitions Act 1994 and parliamentary standing orders.
“This is not an acceptable way for a democratically elected government to proceed.”