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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 04 Hansard (Tuesday, 20 June 1995) . . Page.. 884 ..


what consistently comes through with Mr De Domenico is that what he understands is the bottom line, what he understands is finances. When he is asked to explain it, he always falls back on the same notions of efficiency, of dollars, of cutting costs. They are the concepts he understands. He does not seem to understand the wider issues of social responsibility and environmental protection which concern the Labor Party and so many members of the community.

Today, we have a report in the newspapers - I have not heard any mention of it anywhere else - of proposals being put to the Government to separate out the concessions that are made by ACTEW and ACTION. Instead of those concessions being absorbed within the budgets of ACTEW and ACTION, those concessions will be separated out and funded off-line out of the Government's budget, and ACTEW and ACTION will be able to say, “This is not our responsibility. Who are we to care whether people out in the suburbs have the money to pay their electricity bills, or have the money to pay full fares on ACTION to get from A to B? This is a matter for the Government. If the Government wants to give these people subsidies, let the Government give them subsidies. It is not a matter for enterprises such as ACTEW and ACTION”.

That is the message that is coming through in that report. This is something we read about in the newspapers today. None of us heard about it in briefings. It was not an issue that was ever canvassed with us. Yet suddenly in the newspapers today we read on page 3 that there is a new push on by the Government to take subsidies out of the budgets of those organisations and make them a separate issue, an issue on which the Government is responsible, not the organisation delivering the services. When the pensioner turns up at ACTEW’s door and says, “Why can I not get a concession on my electricity?”, ACTEW will say, “That is the Government's problem, not ours”. When they go to the Government, it will say, “We have a lot of budget constraints and Treasury will not give us any money. I am sorry; we would like to help you, but we cannot”.

We have a situation where organisations in the private sector provide concessions to pensioners and other low income people; but in the sort of mad ideology that dominates the privatisation-corporatisation debate in the public sector, you would not be seen dead as the chief executive of a government corporation giving a concession to anybody. No, that is a matter for Treasury; that is not a matter for the organisation. This is the sort of logic we need to unpack. We need to know where we are going with ACTEW before we make the decisions the Government wants us to make tonight.

In Mr De Domenico's speech earlier in the day, he had a lot to say about all the opportunities for consultation that members had to avail themselves of, and he mentioned a briefing back in May - I am a bit sketchy on the date now. I attended that briefing, Mr De Domenico, and I will tell you a little story about it. It was not a briefing about corporatisation at all; it was a briefing about ACTEW and what a wonderful organisation it is. Of course it is a wonderful organisation. I listened intently to what they had to say. They talked a little about Hilmer and I asked some questions. They said, “Under Hilmer, some of our large customers will be able to bid on the electricity grid to other suppliers and not have to buy from ACTEW. Sydney Electricity has been in town talking to our six top customers. We could lose customers to Sydney Electricity”. So, I asked them some questions. I said, “That is interesting. If Sydney Electricity takes our six top customers, what will this do for electricity prices for ordinary residents? How is this going to work?


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