The Australian Capital Territory was founded specifically to hold Australia's capital city, Canberra and is situated within the state of New South Wales. The headquarters of the nation’s most important government departments are found there and the territory is known for its progressive politics and social policies.
Calvary Public Hospital, situated in Canberra’s north, is government-funded but has been run by the Little Company of Mary since it opened in 1979. The hospital is well-known for its excellent service and dedicated staff, and although run by a Catholic entity, caters to patients of all faiths and none. The hospital leases the land it sits on from the government, and its administrators believed they had 76 years remaining on the lease. However, only days after the forced acquisition was announced, special legislation was rammed through parliament, allowing the government to effectively tear up the lease.
The move is reminiscent of the actions of anti-Catholic revolutionaries as they began their persecutions: divesting the Church of its property has preoccupied radicals from the Reformation to the French Revolution down to our own times in troubled nations such as Nicaragua.
The new law allows the government to circumvent its existing procedures - including a mandatory two-month consultation period - enabling the take-over to be settled in record time. The hospital’s 1800 employees, many of whom left the public sector to work at Calvary, will find themselves employed by the state from early July.
The ACT government has earmarked the Calvary site for a new billion-dollar hospital and over the years, there have been several attempts to negotiate a takeover which was agreeable to both parties. One such attempt, in 2010, broke down because the hospital administrators said it would take years for the Vatican to approve the sale. Another attempt stalled a year ago, when Calvary refused to renegotiate a shorter lease. After that the government went silent until the announcement that it was forcibly acquiring the hospital.
While the ACT’s Health Minister insists that the decision has nothing to do with religion or abortion, the leftwing government’s track record on life issues - and specifically on the provision of abortion - indicates otherwise. Earlier this year, the ACT’s Legislative Assembly held an enquiry into Canberra’s abortion services and gave Calvary special scrutiny, concluding that its pro-life policies were “problematic … due to an overriding religious ethos.” Yet, the alternative hospital in Canberra, a public one, also does not provide abortions, Missing from the report was any suggestion this was due to that hospital’s irreligious ethos.
At the time of the enquiry, politicians in Canberra said they were concerned that the demise of Roe vs Wade in the US somehow threatened the ability of Australian women to procure an abortion. This leitmotif has been on the lips of pro-abortion activists worldwide ever since pro-life judges were appointed to the Supreme Court.
The Committee made eighteen recommendations, some of them quite extreme, such as tripling the size of existing bubble zones and forcing conscientious objectors to refer for abortion. The report insisted that late-term abortions be made available in the capital, since although this is already legal in the ACT without any gestational limits, no providers are willing to abort babies past 16 weeks, forcing women to travel interstate to have their older babies killed. The committee also recommended that government employees be given leave for “reproductive healthcare.”
It is an unsettling move, and yet another sign that the freedoms we once took for granted are no longer as rock-solid as had been believed. Calvary’s hostile takeover, coming as it does when not a few Australian politicians are playing down China’s unhealthy influence in our nation, gives a definite Marxist flavor to this very bitter pill.
Soon after the recommendations were made public, the ACT government became the first jurisdiction in Australia to provide free abortions. Hapless mothers are also offered free long-acting reversible contraception at the time of their abortion. It is not a requirement that women be covered by Australia’s Medicare system, meaning that students and new immigrants can access abortions for free.
At the other end of the life spectrum, an assisted suicide bill is expected to be introduced in the ACT later this year. Calvary Hospital has already indicated that, should the bill pass, it would not be open to providing that service, giving the government even more incentive to rid itself of the Catholic influence in its health system.
The Archbishop of Canberra-Goulbourn, Christopher Prowse, told the Canberra Times that he is “utterly astounded”, and that the government did not formally contact the Archdiocese before announcing the takeover. In a letter sent out to his parishes, Archbishop Prowse wrote: “There is a rising fear that 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 … I am deeply troubled about this situation and its implications.”
The move is reminiscent of the actions of anti-Catholic revolutionaries as they began their persecutions: divesting the Church of its property has preoccupied radicals from the Reformation to the French Revolution down to our own times in troubled nations such as Nicaragua. The current takeover bid by the government of the Australian Capital Territory is less extreme than those examples, of course, given that it has some legal footing - even if that is somewhat tenuous - and given that compensation will be paid, although the details of that sum have not been announced. Employees remain free to leave their new employer if they wish to do so, meaning that they will not be forced to participate in abortion or euthanasia should those programmes be introduced at the new hospital.
All the same, it is an unsettling move, and yet another sign that the freedoms we once took for granted are no longer as rock-solid as had been believed. Calvary’s hostile takeover, coming as it does when not a few Australian politicians are playing down China’s unhealthy influence in our nation, gives a definite Marxist flavor to this very bitter pill.
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