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MR CONNOLLY (8.29): Mr Speaker, here we are on a Tuesday night, in the first set of sittings after Tuesday night sittings were abolished, and any members of the Canberra public who had concerns about why we need to corporatise ACTEW, I am sure, have had them allayed by the Chief Minister: It is very clear that unless we corporatise ACTEW the Berlin Wall will be rebuilt, we will call the Labor Party lots of names, Wayne Berry and Terry Connolly are a couple of dinosaurs, and yah, yah, yah, yah! That amounts to the level of intellectual input the Government has presented to justify its case for corporatising ACTEW. That really is a fairly woeful level of debate. It raised a chuckle from the Government back bench; but that is probably not difficult, particularly at this stage of the evening. But what did it do to advance the case for the corporatisation of ACTEW?

Mr Whitecross, Mr Berry and Ms Tucker have asked some very simple questions, such as: Why are we going down this path? I will ask the question again, and I will make it even more simple. Tell me one thing that ACTEW can do only in a corporate form, that it could not do as a statutory authority. Mrs Carnell says that it is all about efficiency, that the Labor Party somehow are opposed to efficiency. The struggles we engaged in to create efficiency in other areas of the public service, in ACTION buses, in ACTEW itself over the last 3½ years, are well documented. So yes, we are in favour of efficiency.

“We must do this because of Hilmer”, says the Government. The Hilmer process came out of COAG, and who was at COAG when that process was being developed? The then Chief Minister, Rosemary Follett, representing this Labor Party. Yes, we are in favour of competition reform; yes, we are in favour of micro-economic reform; yes, we are in favour of the national grid; yes, we are in favour of the proposition, although it is irrelevant for our specific purposes, that the vertical monopolies from generation through wholesaling and reticulation through to the retail client on the electricity side are a bad idea and would be better broken up. Those arguments we are all in favour of, but why does it follow that you must have the corporate form to do any of this? What have the justifications been? From Mrs Carnell: “If you do not do it they will rebuild the Berlin Wall, and Wayne Berry and Terry Connolly are dinosaurs”.

Let us at least see what Mr De Domenico said in his presentation speech. He lists five justifications for corporatising ACTEW. The first is to provide incentives to improve efficiency within ACTEW by setting appropriate performance and accountability targets. Why can that not be done in the form of a statutory authority? Of course it can be done in the form of a statutory authority. It has been done for many years. ACTEW's efficiency, performance and accountability has been assessed in surveys that have been tabled in this place over the years. The Electricity Supply Association of Australia compares all the electricity supply bodies around the country, and ACTEW performs pretty well in that area. As I said earlier, there are some areas in relation particularly to water and hydraulics where ACTEW's costs are higher; but ACTEW performs so much better and provides such an expensive service in order to put out very high quality water into the Murrumbidgee that you would expect its costs to be higher.

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