A free and fair society at risk in Canberra’s hospital grab



Australians need to know what is happening in the Australian Capital Territory.

The ACT government is about to make a compulsory acquisition of Calvary Hospital. In 1979, Calvary Hospital began its good work at the invitation of the Commonwealth government.  

The lease is for 120 years. There is 76 years to run. Through legislation, the contract for service will be ripped up, land and property expunged. All of this without any consultation.


The Canberra Hospital is the main government hospital in the city. It has major problems. An independent review in March 2019 was scathing of the culture of TCH. Compulsory acquisition is clearly not about service delivery.

Is it a financial decision?

The Little Company of Mary runs Calvary and they have just finished building a 342-bed hospital in Adelaide for $350m. After compulsory acquisition, the ACT government is going to build another hospital adjacent to the current Calvary Hospital and then knock the old one down. They estimate the cost to be $1bn for a 500-bed hospital.

The ACT government should simply commission the Little Company of Mary to build them a new hospital at half the cost and hand it over to the government. That would release $500m for other needed government infrastructure.

Is it religious discrimination?

In 2022, the ACT government conducted an inquiry into the availability of abortion in the ACT. The ACT Standing Committee Health Report was released on 10 April 2023. Astoundingly, the report accuses Calvary of restricting “medical services” “due to an overriding religious ethos”.

Yet that same report notes that neither TCH or Calvary Hospital perform abortions (except in exceptional circumstances). Abortions are day procedures, carried out by other medical providers in the ACT.

Would the NSW government dare claim that St Vincent’s Hospital has an “overriding religious ethos”? Would the Queensland government be so brash as to claim that The Mater in Brisbane operates with an “overriding religious ethos”?

This brings us to the next question. Who is next? What other community groups are under threat in the ACT?

Clare Holland House is one of the most revered institutions in the ACT. It provides superb palliative care under the umbrella of Calvary Hospital.

We know that the ACT government has not taken up the majority of recommendations for palliative care from its End of Life inquiry. It naively thinks VAD is the solution to end of life issues. Those of us with experience in this space respectfully disagree.

The government doesn’t like horse racing. The ACT Race Club should be nervous.

Summernats is burning up too much fuel at its annual event. It will get its marching orders.

The Association of Independent Schools of the ACT must be sweating. Imagine the scenario. Independent schools decide not to promote gender transitioning, based not on religious grounds, but on compounding scientific evidence. Suddenly, teachers, parents and children lose their rights as ordinary citizens.

Final question. Which state will be emboldened by this ridiculous behaviour?

This is a serious issue with grave consequences for the Federation. The Prime Minister must get involved. After all, the commonwealth government invited Calvary to Canberra. Nothing less than the rule of law is at stake.

No Australian likes to be dispossessed of their land and property. No Australian likes their contract ripped up unilaterally.

One of the most significant reasons why Australia is a free and fair nation is because of our property rights, which ensure stability. Property rights are a key “natural mechanism”, ensuring both the creation of wealth and its just distribution.

This move by the ACT government is dangerous, totalitarian in nature. Suddenly, everything is up for grabs. Every Australian should be deeply concerned. Every Australian should act. Political and civil pressure needs to be applied to force the government to get back to the bargaining table with the legitimate owner – Calvary Hospital.

If not, a free and fair society will no longer be ours.


This article has been republished from The Australian with permission.


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