Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has told colleagues the ACT government's forced acquisition of the Calvary Public Hospital Bruce is unprecedented and he is sympathetic to concerns from faith-based institutions.
A meeting of the Coalition joint party room on Tuesday has heard concerns raised by a member about the Calvary controversy and religious freedom just ahead of the expected passing of legislation in the Legislative Assembly to allow the government to compulsorily acquire the hospital by July 3.
The forced acquisition, the biggest in the history of the ACT's self-government, has emerged after negotiations between the ACT government and the Little Company of Mary, the Catholic organisation that runs Calvary, broke down.
Mr Dutton responded, telling the gathering of Liberal and Nationals MPs and senators he was sympathetic and the forced takeover was something the opposition was going to "continue to work on".
He also said it was "unprecedented" for the government to "intervene in such a way".
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It comes a day after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, himself a Catholic, entered the dispute, insisting in comments to The Canberra Times the move was not driven by religion.
"The ACT government are expanding their public hospital service delivery and restructuring healthcare provision as a result," Mr Albanese told this masthead.
"It is not seen as providing any precedent by the ACT government and should not be by anyone else.
"The provision of services by catholic and other faith based entities in health, aged care, education, childcare, welfare and other areas is an important part of Australia's social infrastructure."
Soon after the takeover was announced, Mr Dutton declared he was "shocked" by the proposal, calling it an "attack on religion".
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