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John Howard attacks ACT Government over Calvary takeover: “Blatant assault”

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Former prime minister John Howard. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Former prime minister John Howard has come out swinging in defense of Canberra’s Calvary Hospital, saying the ACT Government’s forced acquisition is a “blatant assault” on the principle of private ownership.

“Sometimes people say to me ‘Why do you keep banging on about the fundamental principles of liberalism, they’re not under attack in this country,’” Mr Howard said.

“Well, they’re very seriously under attack at the moment in the Australian Capital Territory.

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“This attempt by the ACT to grab from the Catholic Church the Calvary Hospital is about as blatant an assault on the principle of private property ownership that I’ve seen in this country for many, many years.”

Mr Howard’s comments while speaking at a book launch on the Gold Coast were met with applause from the audience.

He praised Calvary as a great example of Catholic provision of health care in Australia and criticised Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for not having the courage “to call out what the ACT Government is doing” in its compulsory acquisition of the hospital by passing legislation to sever its long-term lease “without any real justification.”

“And what does Mr Albanese say when he’s asked about it? ‘I don’t see any sort of problem for the future’, Mr Howard added.

“Well, I see not only a problem for the future, I see a problem for the present.”

Senator Matt Canavan signaled he will introduce a bill to Federal parliament this week to “keep fighting for justice for all that are impacted by ACT Labor’s midnight raid on the Calvary Hospital.”

The Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Amendment Bill comes after the senator’s failure on 15 June to get the necessary support to open a Senate inquiry into the hospital takeover.

According to The Canberra Times, the vote for an inquiry lost by two votes, 26 to 28.

Leader of the Archdiocese of Canberra-Goulburn’s “Save Calvary” campaign Fr Tony Percy criticised ACT Senator Pocock for “scuttling” the inquiry by voting against it.

Mr Pocock sought to amend the motion to call on the ACT Government to hold its own inquiry instead and wrote to Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith on the matter.

Mr Barr said there will be an opportunity for scrutiny of the bill in budget estimates, which will be held in July.

However, the ACT Government has begun its official transition period and intends to complete the acquisition by 3 July.

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