Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 03 Hansard (Wednesday, 31 May 1995) . . Page.. 624 ..
MR CONNOLLY (12.20): Mr Speaker, just briefly, the Government continues to try to portray the Labor Party as having some sort of ideological hang-up in relation to the issue of the appropriate structure for providing public services. In reality, the ideological drive and obsession is coming from the benches opposite, where there is this simplistic 1980s market-driven view that the corporate form is necessarily better than the public sector form and that a corporatised body is necessarily better. We, on the other hand, have taken a very pragmatic view of things. We proceeded with the corporatisation of Totalcare - the corporatisation of Totalcare occurred under our Government - because you had there a body that was not providing a central government service but was going out to pick up market share from the private sector, as it has very successfully done with the Hyatt contract, which is its flagship. So, that was appropriate for a corporate form. But when we looked at bodies that were providing a core public service, such as ACTEW and ACTION, we said, “Do not worry about the flim-flam of the form; focus on the hard results”.
The Liberals like to talk about micro-economic reform. We actually went in there, rolled up our sleeves, and did it, and the change in the financial performance of ACTION over the last three or four years has been very dramatic. We inherited a body which under a Liberal government had achieved a record high level of subsidy, and we went in there and dramatically changed work practices, changed management structures and got a situation where we reduced the level of subsidy by nearly a third. That is a remarkable achievement. I think that as the years go by we will start to see these interstate comparisons of efficiency of public transport, bearing in mind that ACTION was never the worst. Mr De Domenico was fond of saying that ACTION was the most inefficient public transport provider in Australia. It never was. I think that if you look - - -
Mr De Domenico: The second most, was it?
MR CONNOLLY: No, not at all. Metropolitan Sydney and Melbourne were always worse than ACTION. I think that, when you look at the level of change in performance in ACTION in recent years, it will have been the most dramatic turnaround in the fortunes of a public transport provider under the ordinary, conventional public sector form. So, we are saying: Let us be pragmatic, let us be sensible, let us look at serious reform, rather than muck about with the flim-flam of chopping and changing the corporate form. It is like that old statement of a Greek historian in the second century AD: “We trained for years, we got our army formations right, and then someone would come along and reorganise, and it was so frustrating. Every time we got our act together, we would be reorganised”. The obsession with corporatisation is just an obsession with changing a form and can lead to ignoring the fundamental issue, which is about efficiency.
Mr De Domenico very patronisingly suggested to the Greens, “You have no business making these sorts of criticisms. After all, you voted for Mrs Carnell as Chief Minister, so what business have you got putting these sorts of motions forward?”; or, even more patronisingly, “You people do not really understand what you are doing here”. I will leave members to make their own judgments about that form of debate.