Calvary Hospital update

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Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Amendment Bill 2023
This submission from the Calvary Hospital Taskforce on the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Amendment Bill 2023 (Amendment Bill) is prepared by Father Anthony Percy, Chair of the Calvary Hospital Taskforce, on behalf of in excess of 50,000 people who signed the “Save Calvary” petition.

Many petition signers are members of the Catholic faith and residents of the Australian Capital Territory, while others are neither territorians nor people of faith. What unites all signers is a desire for a fair and democratic Australia, and a view that the compulsory acquisition of Calvary Hospital does not represent such fairness and democracy.

The Bill has a singular operative provision. The proposed new section 75 would require the ACT Government to conduct an inquiry into the Health Infrastructure Enabling Act 2023 (ACT) (Enabling Act), providing its report by 30 June 2024.

The Act was the legislative instrument by which the ACT Government compulsorily acquired Calvary Public Hospital, Bruce.

The Calvary Hospital Taskforce supports the passage of the Amendment Bill for the reasons outlined below.

There was insufficient public scrutiny of the Enabling Bill
The ACT Government announced its intention to compulsorily acquire Calvary Public Hospital on 10 May 2023, tabled the Health Infrastructure Enabling Bill 2023 (ACT) (Enabling Bill) on 11 May 2023 and passed the Enabling Act on 31 May 2023.

The three-week time period between the Government’s announcement and the passage of the legislation meant that there was insufficient public scrutiny of the Enabling Bill, and constituents were given little time to make their views known to their elected representatives.

A condensed process from which the public is largely excluded is not reflective of a participatory democracy, and an inquiry would offer some transparency and accountability for the decision to restrict public scrutiny of the Enabling Bill.

The Amendment Bill would reinstate normal parliamentary processes
Part of the condensed process to pass the Enabling Act was the suspension of ACT parliamentary standing orders that require a two-month inquiry prior to a bill being debated and voted upon.

Critics of the Amendment Bill argue that its passage would inappropriately interfere with the ACT’s right to self-government, but this is disingenuous: the passage of the Bill would simply restore normal parliamentary processes that were dispensed with in this case and require the ACT Government to conduct an inquiry similar to the one they should have undertaken in accordance with the standing orders.

An inquiry would mean that the ACT Government is not incentivised to exempt itself from its own procedures.

An inquiry would reveal any religious bias in the decision-making process
Despite assurances from the ACT Health Minister that the acquisition was not “an attack on the Catholic Church and on faith-based care,”[1] an unresolved question as to how much of the ACT Government's decision was religiously-motivated remains.

The report of the Standing Committee on Health and Wellbeing of the ACT Legislative Assembly for the Inquiry into Abortion and Reproductive Choice in the ACT, stated:

“It is the Committee’s view that it is problematic that one of the ACT’s major hospitals is, due to an overriding religious ethos, restricted in the services that can be delivered to the Canberra community.  It is also reasonable to assume that a significant number of Canberrans would be unaware of the religious model of care which underpins Calvary Hospital’s operation and impacts on their available services.”[2]

This report was released in the weeks prior to the announcement of the compulsory acquisition.

Members of the Catholic faith and other faith communities hold significant concerns that religion was a primary motivator of the ACT Government for the takeover and have a right to have their elected officials challenged on religious bias.

[1] Australian Capital Territory. Debates. Legislative Assembly. 11 May 2023., pp. 1282-1283.

[2] Legislative Assembly for the Australian Capital Territory Standing Committee on Health and Wellbeing. Inquiry into Abortion and Reproductive Choice in the ACT. April 2023., par. 3.102.

We need to act now.
Show your support for an inquiry into the takeover by sending a short submission to the Senate inquiry into the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Amendment Bill 2023 by emailing

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