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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 13 Hansard (5 December) . . Page.. 4458 ..

MR DE DOMENICO (continuing):

In direct answer to Ms Tucker's question, I advise that, while technically achievable, the concept sadly is not yet economically viable. The owner himself estimates that it will take more than 100 years before the value of the energy generated equals the cost of the system. It is hoped that current university research in both Canberra and Sydney will lead to cost reductions in solar cells that will make these systems more cost effective.

There are some safety concerns also about such installations. Solar-generated electricity can be just as deadly as any other form of power. Persons intending to install similar installations should consult with the departmental electrical safety staff or ACTEW. They should also approach ACTEW so that the low readings are not suspected of being due to meter tampering. Whilst we would love to be able to do that all the time, based on current technology, it will take about 100 years to pay back the cost of installation. Once technology gets better, quite obviously, ACTEW will be in the forefront of any improvements.

Arts Grants

MR WOOD: My question is to Mr Humphries. I refer to the Government's intention to add a further layer to the arts grants process, namely, to require Cabinet consideration of grants, with all the extra work and complications that that brings. Minister, the reason offered to a disbelieving arts community for this change is that the process needs to be more efficient. I emphasise "efficient". Minister, yesterday we received the Auditor-General's report into the ACT cultural development funding program, that is, the arts grants program. In view of the very positive findings of that report in respect of both effectiveness and efficiency - I repeat "efficiency" - will you now reverse the decision to change and to complicate unnecessarily what is a demonstrably efficient program?

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, I think that the Opposition is scrambling for questions today. They are asking rather paltry ones. They must have said, "Let us find a report somewhere. Find a report to ask a question about, quick, quick". I am sure that if I went to the Auditor-General and said to him, "Mr Auditor-General, do you think that the grants process, while good, is perfect?", he would say to me, "No". If I asked him, "Could we do better, particularly by looking at grants not just in the arts by themselves but across all the areas of government where grants are made?", I think he would be very likely to say, "Yes, there is some potential for improvement there". Mr Speaker, that is what the Government is doing.

Mr Wood should not focus on just what is happening in the arts. It is not just about improving the efficiency of arts grants. It is about grants in all areas of government where assistance is provided directly to the community in the form of grants. I think this is a trial worth having. Across the board I think it is more efficient to try to look at a centralised way of managing the grants process, to see where duplication is occurring, to look at ways in which we can better and more centrally manage the allocation of grants, the collection of grants and accounting arrangements for grants. That is what this trial is all about.

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