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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 1 Hansard (29 April) . . Page.. 167 ..

MS CARNELL (continuing):

ACTEW's board has urged the Government to undertake an immediate study of various reform options, as outlined in the Fay Richwhite report. The Fay Richwhite report states that not making decisions does not change the risk, Mr Speaker. Maintaining the status quo simply allows the risk profile of the business to change in response to external developments. The opportunity costs of this approach may be very high. In other words, we have been warned that there is likely to be a very high cost in doing nothing. Mr Speaker, the Government has already agreed to conduct a separate review, including a detailed feasibility study of all of the options identified in the Fay Richwhite report. We also have a scoping study in place for looking at what the future of ACTTAB is.

Mr Speaker, I think that the things that are at issue here are very real for the Government, for the Opposition and for every member of this Assembly. What I have made clear here is that the Assembly will have an opportunity - a very real opportunity - to debate these issues when all of the information is on the table. Yes, we can debate them without knowing what we are really talking about, Mr Speaker; but, as I said in my speech, the information that the South Australian Government made a decision on indicated that by doing nothing in South Australia they would have halved the value of their assets. Mr Speaker, what happens under those circumstances? Is it just that there is half the value of the asset on the balance sheet? No, Mr Speaker, it is not that simple. We have already seen ACTEW lose some significant high-volume, high-profile corporate clients. Mr Quinlan, of all people, would know what that means for ACTEW. In fact, I heard him on the radio the other morning agreeing that ACTEW would probably have to increase its prices by something like 9 per cent over three years.

Why is that so? Mr Speaker, as Mr Quinlan knows well and truly, it is because in a competitive market ACTEW simply cannot, as a government-based enterprise, take on that competition easily. If we lose our big, high-profile, high-profit clients, what does that mean to the enterprise, unless that enterprise is able somehow to take the necessary risks to get out into the marketplace? What it means, Mr Speaker, is that the business will shrink. And what does that mean? If the business shrinks, it means that there are fewer employees. Is that what those opposite want? Certainly, it is not what the Government wants. The Government wants to know what the options are. Is sale an option; is some sort of merging an option; is giving ACTEW, ACTTAB, or whatever, a greater capacity to take significant commercial risks an option? There are a number of options, Mr Speaker; but doing nothing is not one of the options.

MR QUINLAN (4.16): Mr Speaker, this is just a mere technicality; but a conscious decision to retain the status quo is not doing nothing, in decision theory.

Mr Humphries: It sounds like it to me, or pretty close to it.

MR QUINLAN: Change for change's sake is the alternative, Mr Humphries. Let me return to the matter of public importance. It is about where the decision is taken. There was ample debate before the election of this year; but I guess that the Government was quite equivocal at that stage - - -

Ms Carnell: But you were not. The Opposition said that they would never, ever, ever, ever sell any of them. So, you have a closed mind.

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