Debates Day 3 - Thursday 19 June 2003
Parliamentary Record 13
Debates for 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Thursday 19 June 2003 with perhaps fewer people on through the day? Therefore, those nights when these types of activities are most prevalent - and I suggest that is probably Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights of any week - perhaps fewer people on shift during the early part of the week frees up the rosters to have increased numbers of people on shift - perhaps even to the point of police on duty with 24-hour patrols throughout Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. That would be another measure that would go towards alleviating some of these concerns. As I said, I had a quick reply from the minister for police advising me that this was very much a matter for the commissioner, so I await that advice. I finish where I started: do not let us lose sight of the key cause here - 42 out of 44 cases are alcohol- related. That is the problem. That is where we have to address our efforts and that is what we will be doing. Madam SPEAKER: Minister, your time has expired. Mr BURKE (Opposition Leader): Madam Speaker, I had not intended making a contribution to this debate. I understand the member for Arafura wishes to say a few words and, in that context, I appreciate and welcome the opportunity. I thank the member for Nhulunbuy for getting the governments contribution back on to what is, essentially, the agenda. The agenda is to look at how we can protect nurses working in remote areas in the Northern Territory. The censure motion had two purposes. One was to raise the issue of the degree of violence that we have to recognise is there in remote communities, and to do something about it. The fact that the censure motion is aimed at the minister for Health is unfortunate, but that is also a fact of life. An issue like this cannot be ignored. When you get a report of this nature that brings these issues into the spotlight so glaringly obviously, they have to be brought forward; and brought forward quickly. The fact that the report points out that, certainly over the last three months, there have been an alarming number of incidents since February - 44 in that area - and the minister says that she has not seen the report; spends most of her time bucketing the CLP for inaction over the years; makes comments that she will look at this report over time and get a greater feel for it; and talks about aggression policies that are in place, I believe, speaks for itself. You can espouse what rhetoric you like in this Chamber, but I and the member for Drysdale have been Health ministers and we know the way the health system works. The minister is not on top of the fact that there have been a series of efforts in that area to record every incident, or the status of those reports. To have an off-the-top response to the fact that those reports were ongoing, and you knew the situation and had a response to it is an indictment. You can say whatever you like, minister, but at the end of the day - and I imagine your colleagues would have to be thinking this as well - it is not the acceptable to say: I have not seen this report before. We have aggression strategies in place and those aggression strategies are starting to have some effect. I would have thought you would know who was in charge or was leading the assembling of all this data. The fact that you would have a very good knowledge of what the data was starting to give you in one particular area over a three-month period should be ringing some alarm bells. I would have thought that you would be able to look at a couple of those incidents and say: I am aware of that incident. I know how the flash briefs run up. The flash briefs come straight up to your office, straight on the ministers desk for the minister to get across them straight away. You should have had flash briefs on a whole number of those incidents, even the ones in the last few weeks. Mr Baldwin: The staff read them; she doesnt. Mr BURKE: Well, this is the point I am getting to. You must have a system in your office whereby the staff are doing too much of your work because those flash briefs are meant for the minister. One of the things that is becoming a fact of life in your department is that there are so many flash briefs being created - because you are so worried about life or your staff are - by your department that they are now becoming like normal ministerial briefs. Once you get into that situation, the flash briefs lose their importance. That is when this thing hits your desk and you do not know what is going on. That is why you cannot respond to incidents because you are really only talking about policy all the time. That is why we are really disappointed in you, minister, and why you will have more and more censure motions, unfortunately: because of the overall incompetence in the way you appear to have a handle on your department. Having said that, the issue is one of personal safety for nurses. It means absolutely naught to the nurses out there that you say: The CLP has been in power for years, they had plenty of time to do something about it, and we are getting on top of the problem. Many of those nurses, I would imagine, would not have even thought of coming to the Northern Territory two years ago, for the period you have been in government. Those nurses have come to the Northern Territory believing, as your ads say, that there are safety mechanisms in place, there is a good working environment, and they will be 4401
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