Tuesday June 27, 2017

Dr who? The mysterious letter supporting contracts

Written by David Marler
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On Thursday, Labor MP for South Brisbane Jackie Trad highlighted a phrase in a letter of support for doctor contracts to the Queensland Health Minister, Lawrence Springborg.

The new contracts would see sweeping changes to working conditions in the public hospital system but have been rejected by the majority of the state's doctors at multiple rallies.  The doctors have threatened mass resignation if the Newman government does not negotiate on the forced changes.

Springborg had quoted from the anonymous letter earlier in the parliamentary session. In a fiery reply, Trad used an amendment to a government motion endorsing an Auditor-General's report as justification for the doctor contracts.

It was the line: "who wrote to Health Minister Lawrence Springborg in support of doctor contracts said he worked for Queensland Health for 14 years and saw his pay jump by 300 per cent—while his workload halved."

This matched an earlier piece written by the Courier Mail columnist, Des Houghton.

Trad went on to suggest that Houghton received the letter before the Queensland parliament did. She also highlighted the curious nature that this letter was not signed in contrast to the hundreds of letters sent to the health minister against the  new contracts.

She also referred to another doctor who had given Des Houghton an exclusive on praise for a separate area of government policy and wondered if the two were one in the same.

Although not named, she may have been referring to CMC boss Dr Ken Levy who wrote an opinion piece for The Courier Mail in support of new anti-association laws (VLAD) to combat bikie gangs.
Hansard 20th March 2014 

'Hansard 20th March 2014'

On Thursday, from hansard here is the extract:

It is very clear that what the Premier and the health minister are engaged in is a political campaign. It is a political campaign of their own making. If it was not a political campaign, I would suggest that rather than the one anonymous letter he received in support of his actions, the Hon. Minister for Health may have brought into the House the many hundreds or thousands of letters he has received from SMOs condemning his actions and condemning this government’s draconian authority and push to get SMOs on WorkChoice-style contracts. Where are all of the letters to the health minister or the Premier condemning their actions and condemning these contracts? Certainly they are not tabling those, are they?

However, I have a very interesting letter from a doctor who suggests that he was working in the public hospital system for, I think, 14 years during which time he saw his income increase by 300 per cent but his workload more than halved. I wondered where I had heard that before. Obviously, I read it in a column by the eminent and unbiased columnist—

Ms D’Ath interjected.

Ms TRAD: Yes, the member for Redcliffe knows exactly who I am talking about. It is the columnist Des Houghton. He has reported on this issue, stating that a doctor—
... who wrote to Health Minister Lawrence Springborg in support of doctor contracts said he worked for Queensland Health for 14 years and saw his pay jump by 300 per cent—while his workload halved.

Des Houghton got the exclusive on this letter before the Queensland Parliament did. I wonder how he got it. It got me thinking about another doctor who gave Des Houghton an exclusive. I wondered whether this doctor was that doctor and maybe this doctor is not a medical doctor.

I do not think the health minister is following. I will join the dots. Once there was a doctor who gave Des Houghton an exclusive about government policy, just like this doctor gave Des Houghton an exclusive about government policy. I am wondering whether the two doctors are one in the same, because of course the letter that the health minister tabled does not have a name on it. This doctor’s income increased by 300 per cent, but his workload more than halved. Every other letter from every other doctor that I am have received—and I count 136 in my office so far—talks about huge work hours, under staffing, huge amounts of work that they have do to and their commitment to the public health system.

Mr Sorensen: And what were they like under yours?

Ms TRAD: I am not even going to take that inane interjection from the member for Hervey Bay. I do not know what language he was speaking.

Ms Palaszczuk: The tin man because he has no heart.

Ms TRAD: I will take that interjection from the Leader of the Opposition. I do not know what the tin man was talking about.

Every doctor who has contacted my office has been prepared to put their name, their position, their qualifications, the time they have worked in the public health system on the record to me, the member for Inala, the honourable Leader of the Opposition, and every other person on this side of the House because they have been prepared to listen to their concerns. It is not like this letter from a purported doctor who is making some outrageous suggestions. I would suggest that that doctor should come forward and be prepared to put his name to the claim.

Mr Springborg interjected.

Ms TRAD: Just the way you are bullying people. Let me end with this. The Premier is talking about this being all about patients. I had a father call my office this morning distressed because his daughter requires specialist attention from a doctor who has signed a resignation letter and lodged it with the union. Why? Because they are unprepared to work for a government that is prepared to squash them like this government is. He called the LNP member for Chatsworth’s office and what did he do? Nothing. If it is about patients, start acting like it is.

(Time expired)

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