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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 4 Hansard (20 June) . . Page.. 954..


MS HORODNY (continuing):

As has been stated many times during the past weeks, the Government wants to make ACTEW a better, more profitable organisation through corporatisation. But at what cost profit? What cost will the community have to pay if ACTEW promotes the use of electricity as a way of increasing its profits? It may make perfect business sense to promote consumption, but it makes no sense at all from an environmental point of view. Every activity ACTEW undertakes has an impact on the environment. Experience in environmental management and conservation issues provides a person with a special passion to ensure that our environment is cared for. Our amendment seeks to ensure that community concerns about the environment are represented on the board. The amendment also seeks to include on the board a person with industrial relations experience. We seek to do this to provide a mechanism that will help empower the staff and engender in them a sense of responsibility in relation to their workplace. This is not a radical idea. In fact, it is a practice of many successful international corporations. A happy workplace is an integral part of gaining efficiency.

The Greens do not seek to limit the range of experience and knowledge on the board. On the contrary, we seek to expand it. We seek to extend it through providing for individuals who may provide the board with a wider range of knowledge and experience than might otherwise have been the case. In addition, this amendment will assure the community that concerns that might not otherwise have been heard by ACTEW will be taken on board and considered seriously.

MRS CARNELL (Chief Minister) (11.55): Mr Speaker, we will be opposing this amendment, and for very good reasons. The directors of this company need to be people who understand about running a multimillion dollar company first and foremost. That is the bottom line. Quite simply, we have heard talk about profit and these sorts of things all the way through this debate, but it is the people of Canberra who own this company. There is nobody who is likely to profit by any unusual actions of ACTEW. The only people who can profit are the people of Canberra, and community service obligations and the expectations of this Assembly and the people of Canberra will determine how the company operates. The most important thing is that we need a board of directors who know how to run a company. That is the bottom line.

If we start putting on the board directors who do not have this expertise, they are likely to end up in gaol. In this day and age, requirements of directors are quite dramatic. Your house is on the line when you take on the directorship of a company, and this is a multimillion dollar exercise. The bottom line for us is that we must have people who do understand about multimillion dollar companies and who know how to run them properly. Running them properly is not necessarily about extracting the last dollar. It is about happy workplaces and people who want to work there. First and foremost in this whole debate, this is about having ACTEW as a company that has a real corporate identity, a company where people want to work - they do now, but that will become even better under this new approach.

We believe strongly that the directors, with their CVs, should be run past this Assembly, and we undertake to do so, simply because ACTEW is very important to the people of the ACT and the people on the board obviously are of interest to this Assembly. I can guarantee that we will not be recommending people to be directors of ACTEW for political reasons. We will be putting on here people who can run the company.


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