Canberra-Goulburn Archdiocese chancellor Patrick McArdle has told a Senate inquiry that self-government in the ACT is not a right. Source: ABC News.
Mr McArdle made the comments in a public committee hearing into a bill which would effectively compel the ACT Government to hold an inquiry into its acquisition of Calvary Public Hospital in July.
The Church and Calvary Health slammed the ACT Government’s decision, though a legal bid by the Catholic not-for-profit operator to stop the takeover was unsuccessful.
In June, a private member’s bill by Queensland LNP Senator Matt Canavan was introduced which would require the ACT Government to conduct an inquiry into territory legislation enabling the acquisition. That bill was referred to the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee.
At the time, the ACT Government accused the Coalition of trying to undermine territory rights.
But Mr McArdle told the Senate committee the ACT was “unique” in the Commonwealth as the seat of government because it “does not have the full range of state prerogatives”.
“Self-government in the ACT is not a right – it is a determination of this Parliament. The archdiocese believes that more scrutiny is required of this decision, rather than less,” Mr McArdle said.
ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith denied the Government had sought to avoid scrutiny or due process in the Legislative Assembly for the bill enabling the takeover of the hospital.
Ms Stephen-Smith said she thought most people in Canberra not only supported the decision but had also “seen how smoothly it [had] gone”.
Canberra-Goulburn priest Fr Tony Percy told the committee that non-government organisations around Australia were worried the ACT’s takeover set a precedent, and they wanted “written guarantees” that other jurisdictions would not seek to acquire the Church’s assets.
“What trust have we got and what else is being assured to us?” he said.
“It’s our intention to keep going beyond this inquiry to ensure every institution in the country – federal, state and the territories is actually secure.”
The Senate committee is due to deliver its findings today.
Calvary Hospital Update (Catholic Voice)
Calvary takeover ‘faith agnostic’, says ACT health minister (The Australian)