Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 3 Hansard (28 March) . . Page.. 674..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
There was the obvious position put: "Well, isn't this a conflict?"That came from those concerned about the need for us to think sustainably in relation to water use. The challenge that was made at the time was: "Well, you know what Actew is going to recommend. Actew will almost certainly, without doubt-you can guarantee it-recommend that we need to construct another dam, and we need to construct it immediately."That, of course, is the Liberal Party position, but that was the challenge or the charge that was levelled at Actew. Because it has this alleged vested interest in ratcheting up profits and returns to the extent that it can, if it comes to spending another dollar, how could you expect Actew, when handed the task of inquiring on behalf of the government into the territory's future water needs and how best to secure them, to do anything other than automatically, without thinking, recommend that we whip around constructing dams all over the place?
Shock, horror! The report came back on the basis of rigorous scientific analysis of our needs, the population, climate change and a range of other factors. I know that Actew's response disappointed Mrs Dunne and the Liberal Party enormously. It shocked and horrified others who had made these allegations about Actew's lack of integrity and how Actew could not be trusted to deliver an objective scientific report and analysis on how best to meet our water needs.
Actew, of course, with some lateral thinking, some engineering brilliance and insight, recommended that we build a bulk transfer system from the existing good catchment to the existing not-so-good catchment. As a result of that mechanism, as well as the significant engineering and thinking that went into the Murrumbidgee option and the potential of a further pipeline in the future, if we need it, Actew is now saying, through its reports and quite publicly, that it may be that we do not need to think again about whether or not we will ever need a dam. Perhaps we will in 30 years time, perhaps longer and perhaps never.
This notion that Actew cannot be trusted because it is a company and its overarching charter is to make money or to render profit needs to be looked at in the light of Actew, as an ACT government-owned company, responding to and being responsible to an essential government philosophy around sustainability, good government and evidence-based decision making. It is a corporation that is very much a part of this community.
It has to be said that at no stage in any of my discussions with Actew have I ever suggested to Actew that it needed to maximise the opportunity and to get out there and to grasp for every cent and dollar that it could. I do not think it has ever been discussed, let alone formalised in terms of directions. We want the company to do well. We want it to be efficient and to be lean. We want it to maximise its opportunities and do what it does particularly well. But if this is the thrust of your question, at no stage has this government ever gone to Actew and said, "We need you to turn a quid for us, and we need you to do it in any way that you can."
The overall or essential nature of my relationship with Actew is that I expect it to meet the government's sustainability objectives. I expect it to work with the government to deliver "Think water, act water"and "Think water, act water"at its heart requires a reduction in consumption of water by 25 per cent by 2023. I expect Actew to work with the government. It has every intention of doing that. Actew is a wonderful corporate