The first time I heard Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews promise to maintain Victoria’s nurse/midwife-to-patient ratios was on December 9th, 2011, outside the new Royal Children’s Hospital. He said that he admired and respected the work that nurses and midwives do, that he knew how important ratios were, and that if he were Premier when we next went to negotiations, ratios wouldn’t be on the baragaining table.
It would be another four months of unprecedented action and governmental bad faith before then-Premier Baillieu and Health Minister Davis – after pushing distraught nurses to take strike action for the first time in a quarter of a century – finally agreed to independent arbitration, protecting the ratios ANMF (Vic. branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick rightly calls our profession’s first born child. And I heard Mr Andrews make that pledge two more times.
What convinced me that his commitment was sincere – for politicians make and break promises all the time – came six months after that summer day, at our delegates conference.After making that promise again, Mr Andrews invited questions from the floor, and was asked to commit to another improvement, outside the public acute sector.
His response was measured, and clear – he would consider it, in the event he was fortunate enough to be granted office, but he had not looked at what implementing that measure would involve, and he would not make uncosted promises.
That indicates integrity to me, an impression reinforced a few months ago, when a source inside the Labor party told me Mr Andrews’ determination to act as though his promises would always have to be carried through had not won him friends in the back rooms among members who thought he should promise whatever it took to win.
Today I was delighted to be present at ANMF House, when Daniel Andrews committed not only that, under a Labor government, we won’t have to fight to keep ratios as we have in 2001, 2004, 2007 and 2011/12, but he’ll enshrine them in law – you can see his speech here.
This is more significant than most nurses and midwives realise – earlier this year the High Court found that fire fighter ratios, though contained in their EBA, were not legally enforceable, which makes vulnerable every occupation that has staff and workload provisions – think not only our ratios but classroom sizes to get an inkling of the scope.
In addition, he followed through on his signature a few weeks ago of ANMF’s 10-point plan to combat violence with a $20 million pledge to increase hospital security and prevention measures.
There is clearly more that needs to be done, including in aged and community care, but this is a real and very promising start.
And why do I think that Mr Andrews will keep his promise?
Not only because no sane person wants to risk the ire of ANMF (Vic branch)’s 70,000-strong members, but because I believe Daniel Andrews has integrity, and that he genuinely understands, appreciated and respects the roles nurses and midwives play in the health care system.
Mine were not the only wet eyes in the room when Mr Andrews promised to respect ratios, and that he appreciated and honoured the work we do – he received two spontansous standing ovations from the ANMF members present, for good reason. This is more important to us than almost anyone outside the professions can appreciate.
The current government have left paramedics without an agreement 26 months after their EBA negotiations started – they haven’t had a pay increase since 2011, and Australia’s highest trained paramedics earn some $30,000 a year less than their WA colleagues. If elected, Mr Andrews will send their dispute to Fair Work as his first act as Premier.
There are many reasons I believe an Andrews-led Labor government will be best for nurses, midwives, the public, and our state. His commitment to health, and my belief in his fidelity to his priomises, is a part of why I’ll be voting for Labor in 31 days.*
*This post was written on October 28th, but not published until November 5th