Queensland’s health minister rejects claims a legal bid to gag doctors’ unions is stifling free speech.
The Queensland government denies it’s restricting free speech by launching legal action to gag doctors’ unions during a dispute over contracts.
Senior doctors are threatening to resign over new individual contracts that they say will strip employment protections and compromise patient care.
Queensland Health has applied for a Federal Court injunction to stop doctors’ groups and unions spreading “misleading” information about the contracts.
Unions say its bullying tactics but Health Minister Lawrence Springborg maintains there are serious concerns about the veracity of the information.
“It is absolutely wrong to say we curtail free speech,” he told parliament on Wednesday.
“The motivation of this action was simply that if doctors are going to be advised to take a course of action which could be leading them to leaving Queensland Health’s employment, they need the best possible advice provided to them.”
The government has taken issue with legal advice telling doctors they will be worse off under the contracts.
The advice was published on the Australian Medical Association Queensland website.
Mr Springborg called the document “commentary dressed up as legal advice”.
“If people seek to make what can be significant career-limiting choices, and the advice they have been provided is wrong, then that is not right for those who put that information out there,” he said.
Queensland Health is also concerned about a union website called “Keep Our Doctors” and an advertisement that warns of the collapse of the public health system.
The department’s lawyer told the Federal Court on Wednesday that the parties were trying to find a compromise and there was no need for an urgent hearing.
The case was adjourned until May 23, well after the April 30 deadline that doctors have been given to sign the contracts.
The Australian Medical Association Queensland and the Together union, who are involved in the court action, have been contacted for comment.