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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 10 Hansard (3 September) . . Page.. 2936 ..


Works and Commercial Services - Corporatisation

MR WHITECROSS: Mr Speaker, my question is to Mr De Domenico in his capacities as Minister for Business and Minister for Urban Services. Minister, my question relates to the transfer of the functions of Works and Commercial Services to Totalcare. Works and Commercial Services has a business focused on roads and transport, capital works, landscape and labour for building and road operations. Last week you announced the transfer of this business to Totalcare Industries, which is a business focusing on linen services, waste management and sterilisation services. Given that the two businesses are so different, what advice was sought from the Totalcare board in relation to the proposed changes, and what analysis was done to gauge the impact on Totalcare's business operation of transferring to the business over 600 staff doing unrelated work?

MR DE DOMENICO: I thank Mr Whitecross for his question. Mr Speaker, the Government's commitments under the competition principles agreement require that, where appropriate, we place commercial activities undertaken by governments on an operating basis that is the same as that for the private sector - that is, on a competitive neutral basis. There are a number of such businesses operating in the Department of Urban Services, and some of the ones that Mr Whitecross read out are some of the ones that we are concerned about. I am looking at arrangements which will lead to greater efficiency and more competition. The Government is also looking at opportunities to improve the efficiency in customer service of all government business units. Clearly, in this context there is a need for business units within the Department of Urban Services to be put on a more commercial footing. The reason why the Government did something about it was that if it had done nothing jobs would have been lost. There is no doubt about that. If we had done nothing, as those opposite did for five years, jobs would have been lost.

Another thing that needs to be said is that the Government, before it was elected by the community, by 42 per cent of the people in this town, had a firm commitment to the principles of competition and to the principles of contracting out. This Government has been attacked time and time again by members opposite for contracting out. This time it has contracted in. The Department of Urban Services people have gone from a government department to Totalcare, a wholly government-owned corporation. When we contract out, we are beaten about the head. When we contract in, we are beaten about the head.

Mr Whitecross's direct question was: What did the Totalcare board say? Of course, Mr Page, the chairman of the board, was consulted, and he was delighted. He said, "Totalcare would be delighted to take on the responsibility. We will make sure that we compete with the private sector to make sure that we retain the same number of jobs as we have now".

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