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ACT Supreme Court yet to decide on Calvary injunction

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Law Courts of the ACT. Photo: Creative Commons

The outcome of Calvary Hospital’s push to block the ACT Government’s takeover may not be known for some days, following an ACT Supreme Court hearing on 7 June.

The full bench of the court heard Calvary’s application for an injunction against the “hostile” takeover and is expected to make its ruling before 13 June.

It may rule for a temporary injunction to halt takeover proceedings in the meantime.

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Barrister David Williams SC, representing Calvary Health Care ACT, argued that the legislation passed on 31 May to pave the way for the takeover was invalid and “anything but just”, The Canberra Times reported.

The legislation contained a reference to just terms which would include “reasonable compensation”, which Mr Williams said was “some aspirational language” that did not provide a mechanism for just terms.

“If we’re right about that proposition, this act is invalid,” Mr Williams told the court.

He also suggested legislation was deficient because it had been rushed by the government due to the “self-induced urgency” to acquire the hospital.

In written submissions, he said the acquisition terms “fail to provide ‘full compensation’ and have numerous other features which are unjust, or at least not just.”

He also took aim at “oppressively vague” obligations on Calvary to assist with the transition before 3 July.

Lawyers for the ACT Government argued that the takeover legislation was valid, as it did not need to set out the just terms for compensation.

Meanwhile, the chair of the Canberra Business Chamber, Archie Tsirimokos, joined the chorus of opposition to the forced acquisition.

Mr Tsirimokos said it will lower business confidence and affect negotiations involving crown lease arrangements.

“As the voice of business in the ACT, the chamber supports all efforts to improve health facilities, be they privately or publicly run,” he said in a statement on 6 June.

“However, the early termination of legally binding contracts exposes the ACT to sovereign risk which damages investor confidence and stifles economic growth.

“A stable and predictable business environment is crucial for attracting investment. By disregarding any established agreement, the government risks undermining this environment and potentially discouraging future private sector involvement in contracts for infrastructure or other services which may be performed by the private sector.

“This stability provides the basis for businesses of all sizes to work with government without the fear of seeing arrangements change or contracts cancelled.”

Mr Tsirimokos said that the chamber is monitoring the progress closely to identify potential precedents or risks to other government commercial arrangements and Crown leases.

“From a business point of view, this is about confidence and perception,” he said.

“This compulsory takeover of an ongoing arrangement does not inspire confidence for doing business in the ACT and Australia more broadly.”

“The chamber would welcome engagement to further understand the rationale and reasoning for the decision to take over the running of Calvary, along with the process behind the decision and the potential impacts on healthcare, and other government agreements, including on infrastructure and business activity generally.”

More than 33,000 people have signed the petition to save Calvary Hospital run by a special action group at the Archdiocese of Canberra-Goulburn headed by the former vicar general Fr Tony Percy.

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