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MR WHITECROSS (3.52): Mr Speaker, the Liberal Government is in an unholy rush on the corporatisation of Canberra's electricity, water and sewerage provider, ACTEW. The Liberal Government has brought forward this legislation with undue haste. In its handling of this matter, Mr Speaker, the Liberal Government has completely failed. It has failed to put the proposed corporatisation of ACTEW in a proper context. It has failed to explain the implications of the reforms to Australia's electricity industry for ACTEW. It has failed to explore how the social and environmental concerns of the community can best be protected. It has failed to show how the corporatisation of ACTEW will make things better.

The Liberal Government has failed to take the Canberra community into its confidence and to consult them on this important issue. Significant community groups, including the Conservation Council, the ACT Council of Social Service and the Trades and Labour Council, have criticised the haste with which the Government has brought forward this matter and the lack of consultation with the community on this major change. The simple fact is that this Liberal Government does not trust the Canberra community. It does not believe in its own rhetoric about community consultation, and it cannot bring itself to engage in the give and take of a community debate on the future of the electricity supply industry. This Liberal Government is afraid of a properly informed debate, so they have rushed this legislation into the parliament and now are trying to rush it through before anyone gets the chance to work out what it all means. This legislation has been before the parliament for less than three weeks. This is not long enough to digest this significant change. It is especially not long enough when the legislation so conspicuously fails to address key social and environmental concerns. The best that the Government can do on these matters is to say, “Trust us. It will all be okay”.

Mr Speaker, the one who has to take the responsibility for the Government's performance on the issue and the one who has so conspicuously failed to explain these changes, to put them into context, to take the community into its confidence, to consult, to listen and to communicate is Mr De Domenico. Weeks before this legislation was introduced the Minister could say only three things in answer to questions on the Government's plans: “I do not know”, “Not necessarily” and “Wait and see”. So much for open government. So much for community consultation. So much for leadership. The community could not even get the satisfaction of knowing that the Government had a well thought out policy and knew where it was going.

Things have not improved much, Mr Speaker, since the Minister did start to explain things. “It will be more efficient”, he says; but he cannot say how or why. When people draw their own conclusions, when people say, “We know what ‘efficient’ means. We can recognise a euphemism. ‘Efficiency’ means higher prices or less service or fewer jobs or lower conditions of employment”, when people draw the only possible conclusions about where the Liberal Government is heading on ACTEW, what do the Liberals say? They say, “Oh, no. None of these bad things are going to happen. No-one will lose their job. There will not be any job cuts, no conditions of service will be reduced, no prices will rise, no services will be cut. Nothing is going to change. Trust us; it will be more efficient”. This is not open government. This is not community consultation. This is obfuscation of the first order.

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