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MS TUCKER (10.14): Mr Speaker, the Greens support Mr Whitecross's amendment. This amendment gives members of the Assembly who chose to rush corporatisation through earlier on today an opportunity to reconsider their unwise decision, at least to some extent. The Greens tried to have this legislation referred to a select committee before it was passed. The majority of members chose not to support that motion. We are standing here now, debating a range of amendments to make the legislation at least more acceptable in terms of accountability and environmental and social obligations.
Reference has been made several times by the Liberals to other States’ corporatisation of utilities. However, as we have already mentioned several times, they took much more time to consult and to consider the implications of changes they made. In terms of all the implications and consequences, it is early days and we are not quite sure what they are yet. No-one possibly could be. By delaying corporatisation until July 1996 the Assembly has time to review the legislation. It does not make sense to have a committee after ACTEW is corporatised. We spoke earlier about how this will only create uncertainty within ACTEW. As we have been told, we have to live with this legislation now. At least putting off the commencement date allows more time for reflection and consideration of the major issues which have not been considered in this place or in the wider community so far.
I would recommend to the Liberals and the Independents that they read some of the documents we have regarding competition policy, because we keep getting told by the Liberals that it is something that will be of great benefit. We have said several times that there are many very credible groups questioning the implications of Hilmer and competition policy. I will quote from one of those documents. It is from the Australian Conservation Foundation and it is headed “Potential Implications of National Competition Policy for the Water Industry”. Briefly, they make this point:
Water must be managed as a natural system, not as a marketplace.
Under the heading “Environmental and Public Benefits” they say:
The almost exclusive focus on commercial performance may well result in the failure to deliver services for which no real “market” exists. In the process, a wide range of “public good” environmental services which are difficult or impossible to commercialise will disappear from water utility agendas, and government departments will be expected to pick up these responsibilities in the absence of a revenue base.
Other concerns they make clear are:
. the increased emphasis on regulation as opposed to other policy instruments and a more open, consultative approach to managing the water industry
. the potential loss of a range of management (as opposed to operational) responsibilities currently provided by water utilities
. the limitations and pitfalls of competition via benchmarking