Queensland’s acting premier Jeff Seeney has questioned whether 900 doctors actually turned out to a protest in Brisbane over new contracts.
Acting Queensland premier Jeff Seeney has cast doubt on how many doctors were actually present at a vote of no confidence in the state’s health minister over new contracts.
More than 900 packed a Brisbane hotel on Wednesday night, Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk told parliament.
With a show of hands, attendees passed a motion of no confidence in Health Minister Lawrence Springborg.
Highly skilled doctors have said they will walk away from Queensland’s public health system unless the state government abandons controversial new work contracts.
Mr Seeney warned the opposition to be cautious on the numbers, suggesting unions and lobby groups had helped push the protest meeting’s agenda.
“I think the leader of the opposition needs to be cautious about misleading the house, whether all of those people were actually doctors,” he told parliament.
“I think there was quite a number of union activists involved.”
The government says the new deals would increase severance pay, doctors could no longer be transferred to anywhere in the state, and they would have recourse to common law.
But opponents say doctors would no longer be able to access the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission for unfair dismissal, there is no binding arbitration and the employer would still be able to unilaterally vary contracts.
The Australian Salaried Medical Officers’ Federation’s Nick Buckmaster says doctors are still willing to walk out of public hospitals over the contracts.
“As to how many people would be prepared to resign, the overwhelming number of doctors in the room raised their hand,” he said.
Mr Springborg says the government won’t be renegotiating new doctor contracts and believes they have been misled about what’s in them.
“When people finally receive their contracts they will find that what they have been told is so far from the truth it’s not funny,” Mr Springborg told ABC Radio.
Contracts are expected to be sent to about 3500 doctors over the next fortnight and the government hopes they’ll be signed by the end of April.
The new deal however has the tick of approval from chair of the Visiting Medical Officers’ Committee, which represents 650 doctors.
Dr Ross Cartmill, ex-Liberal vice president and candidate, wrote a four page letter to colleagues in support of the contracts after negotiating with Queensland Health.
“Unions representing our salaried colleagues have expressed negativity regarding the change to contracts,” he wrote.
“My disappointment centres on criticism levelled at VMOs and my leadership simply because I have maintained my determination to professionally negotiate our new terms and conditions.”
Opposition health spokeswoman Jo-Ann Miller says Dr Cartmill’s views are personal and political.
Mr Springborg is due to hold a meeting with the Australian Medical Association Queensland on Thursday night.