Territory Stories

Debates Day 3 - Thursday 19 June 2003



Debates Day 3 - Thursday 19 June 2003

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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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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES - Thursday 19 June 2003 protected. They are not being protected; that is the substance of the motion - it is one of personal safety. It has to be driven very hard by you at the top. When I was Health minister, I introduced a policy that every nurse who travelled away from the clinic had to have a sat-phone with them. I wonder if that is still in place. Those nurses need a sat-phone with them every time they leave the clinic and, if it is not still in place, and has drifted away because of other priorities in the department, it should be reinstated. I also said that I did not believe - and I still do not - that we can staff clinics to a level whereby there is one nurse going out on their own. I believe those nurses should travel in pairs. It is totally unacceptable for nurses to be put in situations, particularly in remote parts of the Northern Territory, where they travel on their own. Often they go in to situations where an injury has occurred after a fight and the atmosphere is volatile. We need appropriate responses to protect our nursing staff when they go into those situations. The least we can do is ensure that nurses do not travel alone, particularly at night. You have been in government for two years and I would like to know what has been occurring in that regard. The member for Nhulunbuy made much of the fact that the root of the problem is alcohol, and he pointed to two pages in the report. I do not dispute the fact that alcohol is the base cause of many of these incidents, but the conclusion of the report reads: Given that most communities are already dry, the most useful item that can be suggested to mitigate the problems faced by health services in communities is an enhanced law enforcement presence. The report acknowledges that alcohol is an overwhelming factor in the causes of violence against nurses, but the report itself recommends, having considered all of those things, that the best thing that can be done by the government is to have an enhanced law and order presence. I say to the member for Nhulunbuy: I hear what you are saying, but it is not much use saying Marshall Perron introduced a good Living With Alcohol program; there was a time when we could not get anything but light beer at functions in Parliament House; and the Living with Alcohol program was left to drift away by Chief Ministers Stone and Burke. Those nurses could not give tuppence about that - could not give tuppence! There is a good reason that the Living with Alcohol program is not funded the way it was, and that is a High Court case that stopped the Northern Territory from being able to put a tax on heavy beer. The money, though, is still flowing - well, should have been still flowing - to the Northern Territory in the compensatory arrangements after the new tax system was introduced. If the compensating money from the Commonwealth has stopped flowing, the Northern Territory has to ensure that that money is still there in that sort of program and, if more money is required, the government has to make sure it is provided. It is not much use saying that there was a very good Living with Alcohol program in place, and the CLP government, through two past Chief Ministers, has let it fall away. Where is the new Living with Alcohol program? Where is the one that has been put in place by the Labor government? You have been in government for two years now, and it is in that two years that you should have come to grips with this problem and put in place some tangible effort to show nurses in the Northern Territory that you are dealing effectively with the problem. Essentially, the censure motion is saying to the Minister for Health and Community Services: you are not protecting your nurses; you have a duty to protect your nurses; you need to put in mechanisms to ensure that they are protected. Strategies and policies that will develop over time, I believe, are of litde comfort. They are necessary and essential, but they are litde comfort to nurses who are on the front line, day by day, dealing with this problem. That is the reason the opposition has moved this motion. One of the reasons people are so cynical about us as politicians is that we spend so much time acting like children, hurling abuse at each other in the Chamber and having childish laughs about little things - the latest childish carry-on is about leadership issues in the CLP. However, the real issues are not addressed properly. The real issues are those that concern people in their own work places, every day of the week. The issue today is: what, in fact, does the minister know about the abuse and violence that is occurring to staff in communities, and what is she doing about it? Sorry, minister, you fail badly because you just throw the issue back to your department. You tend to always say: Oh, as I look through this document - oh, some of this happened during the CLP period. Therefore, I blame the CLP for the terrible state that affects nurses in the Northern Territory. Well, the terrible state that affects nurses in the Northern Territory is fully documented in this report. It is documentation of a period primarily on your plate - 44 cases over the last three months - and it is a cry for help. The cry for help has to be addressed a lot more substantially than to say strategies, committees. They want help now; 4402