Rally backs Queensland’s doctors over Newman gov't

Doctors rally on the Gold Coast on March 12.

About 1000 unionists rallied outside Queensland's Parliament House on April 1 to support doctors in their ongoing dispute with the state government.

The government has demanded that doctors sign individual contracts, which are due to come into effect on July 1, by the end of April or risk forgoing up to 30% of their pay.

The rally was called by the public sector workers' union, Together Union.

The latest report from the Public Service Commission said full-time public service jobs are being axed at a rate of eight a day, despite the Queensland government reaching its 14,000 target. Since Premier Campbell Newman came to power, 14,135 full-time positions have been cut. The commission's data shows the total head count has been reduced by 15,414.

An anaesthetist from Cairns spoke at the rally and warned the public hospital system could collapse if the government did not withdraw the individual contracts, which would force doctors to proceed with mass resignations.

Other speakers included workers from policy and administration, and child protection. They emphasised the significant community contribution made by public servants in the face of the erosion of working conditions posed by the Queensland government.

The theme of the rally, “We are not fools”, was taken up in chants.

Together Union secretary Alex Scott told the rally he would not be muzzled by the government in speaking out against the attempts to destroy working conditions of doctors. He was referring to a Federal Court injunction to stop the Australian Medical Association (AMA), the Australian Salaried Medical Officers Federation and Together Queensland from providing members information about the proposed contracts.

The government claimed the information was inaccurate and misleading.

In response, the AMA called for an immediate moratorium on the controversial Senior Medical Officer contracts being rolled out by Queensland Health. AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton urged for negotiations to be restarted to resolve the dispute.

Hambleton denied the AMA had been misleading members and said the legal action was disappointing.

He warned it could be “catastrophic” if the dispute was not settled by the end of the month.

“I really think we have to pull out all stops. The consequences of not getting it resolved are just unthinkable,” he said. “It took two years to fix Caboolture Hospital when we couldn't get doctors to attend in that location, and if that happened in more than one location, it would be catastrophic. So it has to be fixed.”

A new poll commissioned by Keep Our Doctors shows voters are backing the doctors. The Reachtel poll found an average of 67.7% of respondents in Premier Campbell Newman's seat of Ashgrove, as well as Cairns, Ipswich West and Mundingburra said they opposed the government's push to force doctors onto individual work contracts.

Just 17.5% supported the move, and 14.7% were undecided.

AAP said the premier's plan to import doctors from interstate or overseas to replace doctors who resign over the contract was also condemned by the poll. More than 77% said this plan would hurt public hospitals.

"More than 85 per cent said they were very or somewhat concerned that doctors would walk away from public hospital work," AAP said.

"Half of all voters also said they believed public healthcare had deteriorated in the two years the Newman government had been in power."

Keep Our Doctors spokesperson Dr Rob Thomas said: "Rather than trying to find a sensible solution to the problem, the premier and health minister are actually daring doctors to leave the system.

"They say they'll just bring in foreign doctors if our local doctors leave. There's no doubt that the vast majority of Queenslanders aren't happy with that approach."

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