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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (11 March) . . Page.. 872..


MR CORBELL: I will take the question on notice, Mr Speaker.

Totalcare

MS DUNDAS

: My question is to the Treasurer. Treasurer, you have indicated that the road maintenance business in Totalcare probably will be closed down or sold off later this year, once the Totalcare working group has reported. Will the working group tackle the ongoing problem of public subsidies going to private contracts, rather than simply looking to privatise businesses that are not profitable?

MR QUINLAN

: I am not sure that I got the gist of the question. If we go to the market for roadworks, the market will determine the price, I am sure. It is probably being a bit simplistic to talk about the government subsidising individual areas of Totalcare. If the private sector offered a price and Totalcare offered a lesser price and we took the Totalcare price, but they made a loss, maybe we have paid no more anyway; we have just paid it in two lumps, one in the price and one in the overall loss on Totalcare. If we hadn't done that in the short term, we would have been paying for the full cost of the roadworks and a lot of idle equipment and possibly some idle workers as well.

It certainly would have been within the interests of Totalcare to win work because, even if they are winning work to make less of a loss than they would if they got no work, they would have still saved the taxpayers money. We have a set-up now. As I said in answering questions earlier today, what we are trying to do now is to set in place structures that allow us to do the jobs that we need to do and provide the services that we need to provide at the most cost-effective outlay overall. At the same time, having inherited that structure, a structure about which the previous government did a lot of talking and took absolutely no action, we find ourselves with the very difficult task of trying to set that right.

I do appeal to the house as a whole-I do not know whether I am wasting my time-not to try to make too much politics out of this issue. It is going to be difficult enough for the people involved as it is without its trying to be stirred into some sort of massive political issue. Really, it is about, on the one hand, trying to ensure that we look after the taxpayers' dollars and, on the other hand, having to recognise that we have there a work force which is mostly permanent. It is a work force to which a previous government gave a commitment to a lot of them that they would go back inside the public sector proper if the function was no longer carried out by Totalcare. There are some implied contractual arrangements to be worked right through; so, give us a break.

MS DUNDAS

: I have a supplementary question, Mr Speaker. I think that the Treasurer wandered off the topic I was actually getting to. Will the government allow a business segment of Totalcare to operate where it is turning a profit but is subsidising non-ACT government contracts?

MR QUINLAN

: I am not sure I get that. Will we continue to operate an effective area? Yes.

Ms Dundas:

If the taxpayers' money is going to non-ACT government contracts.


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