Australia is not Venezuela. Why is this government taking over a Catholic hospital?

Voters in every state or country with woke politicians at the wheel should follow unfolding developments in Australia’s capital.

The government of the Australian Capital Territory – a self-governing jurisdiction with 430,000 people whose capital is Canberra– is going to compulsorily acquire a 250-bed Catholic hospital.

The announcement on May 10 was stunning news for Calvary Public Hospital, in the ACT suburb of Bruce. An official hand-over begins on May 31 and ownership changes on July 3, provided that enabling legislation passes, as it probably will.

Catholic authorities were given eight weeks’ notice that the land, the staff, and the hospital assets would be transferred to the ACT health service. The government plans to knock down the existing buildings and build a billion-dollar new hospital on the site.

The Minister for Health, Rachel Stephen-Smith, extolled the benefits of the deal: “Consolidating our public hospitals to create a single network will allow us to better coordinate our health services, distribute resources effectively, strengthen the capacity of our workforce, plan infrastructure on a Territory-wide basis, and improve health outcomes for all Canberrans.”

There was no notice. No negotiation over compensation. No acknowledgement in the press release that 76 years remain on the hospital’s lease – which had been renewed in 2010 by a previous ACT government. In short, no justice.

The ACT government moved at warp speed. A bill enabling compulsory acquisition had already been drafted and was tabled the next day, on May 11. It was the kind of bullying that you would expect in Venezuela, but not in Australia.

The Catholic Archbishop, Christopher Prowse, got it right. Depriving Canberrans of a hospital with Catholic values is not the only consequence of this abuse of power. “This extraordinary and completely unnecessary government intervention could set the scene for future ‘acquisitions’ of any faith-based health facility or, indeed, any faith-based enterprise, including education or social welfare,” he said.

The idea that full integration of Calvary Public Hospital into the ACT health system will improve health outcomes is a joke.

Only a few weeks ago, the national broadcaster, the ABC, reported that ACT hospitals were being battered by a wave of negative publicity – privacy breaches, bullying, dangerous cardiac care and on and on. A former advisor to the ACT health minister complained that the waiting time for his hernia surgery was already 500 days even though the benchmark is 90 days. “Canberra's emergency department wait times worst in the country” was a headline earlier this year. The health service plans to spend A$800,000 on a rebrand to brighten its tarnished image.

The only reason that makes sense is that the ACT’s left-leaning woke government, whose Chief Minister was the first government leader in Australia to be same-sex married, wants to purge its health system of Catholic influences.

Abortion. In April a committee of the ACT Assembly issued a report on abortion services. It found that women and “people with uteruses” were unable to access abortions at Canberra Public Hospital because of its “Catholic ethos”. It quoted approvingly the opinion of one witness (which was vehemently rejected by the hospital’s CEO):

It is intensely problematic for the ACT to be reliant on a public hospital that will not provide termination of pregnancy services, and whose management (and no doubt many staff) are opposed to providing it on religious grounds, and where those grounds come with an implicit moral judgement.

Apart from whether or not Calvary should offer abortions, the fact is that neither of the other two major hospitals in Canberra do either, apart from exceptional circumstances. Most women who want a surgical abortion resort to two private clinics.

Obviously, the real problem is not whether or not the service is provided, but the knowledge that someone out there is judging women.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide. The ACT government hopes to legalise assisted dying later this year. In the meantime, a report from the Health Care Consumers’ Association published in April probably reflects its hostility towards a hospital with a Catholic ethos.

… public health services and residential facilities receiving government funding should be required to allow on-site access to [voluntary assisted dying] services if a consumer has made a request. This should happen even if the facility has objections to providing such services.

Supporters of abortion and “assisted dying” must be following this case closely, too. It could be a template for woke governments to crush faith-based opposition to abortion, euthanasia, and gender-affirming medicine. It’s quick and simple: ambush the opposition, steal its assets, and boast of increased efficiency.

In the past, Christian churches, especially the Catholic Church, could easily beat off hostile governments. But times have changed. There are fewer and fewer people in the pews and the paedophilia scandal has weakened the prestige of the Church. Like a jackal circling a lame gazelle, the ACT government has decided that now is the moment to go in for the kill.


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