2010 ACT Assembly kicks off

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The sitting year for the ACT Legislative Assembly kicked off Tuesday morning with a condolence motion for former Australia Day Council Director, first General Manager of the National Press Club and Canberra community figure Marjorie Turbayne AO MBE.

Half the Assembly decided to pay tribute to Turbayne – whether they actually knew the lady or not – all saying some rather nice things that would have made the family sitting in the chamber very pleased.

Question time on Tuesday and Wednesday was largely dedicated to Health Minister and Treasurer Katy Gallagher and the Calvary Hospital debacle, where the Liberal MLAs “little boy brigade” (Gallagher’s words, not mine) proceeded to ask many things and then not listen to any of the answers because they were too busy heckling her.

Gallagher admitted that alternative proposals to the purchase of Calvary Hospital have been looked at, but refused to go into any detail. All the Minister would say was: “None of the options is the preferred option.”

The tabling of a report on alternatives to the purchase of the whole hospital by Tony Harris, commissioned by the Archbishop, caused some feathers to fly on Wednesday. But Gallagher refused to be drawn on Harris’ recommendations, arguing at that they lacked relevance.

Gallagher was also questioned over the employment of consultants to find savings in the upcoming Budget, responding on both days that, while no money had been spent yet, it was not unusual for governments to pay for independent consultations over a variety of matters.

Education Minister Andrew Barr was tackled to the ground by the Greens on the gritty minutiae of day-to-day development, from schools to pools. Barr described the advent of the MySchool website as “an era-defining moment” and gave one-word answers to questions on why the Deakin Pool would be 25 metres, not 50 as planned.

Liberal MLA Vicki Dunne got stuck into Minister for Children and Young People Joy Burch over funding into child protection and childcare services on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively, to little end. Burch had clearly highlighted the right lines in her papers.

Other matters raked over include Green Square irrigation in Kingston, the scheduled completion and architecture of the new Women’s and Children’s Hospital Birth Centre, housing affordability, former service station development sites, ambulance response times and orienteering at Namadgi National Park.

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