Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 1 Hansard (30 April) . . Page.. 231 ..
MR SPEAKER (continuing):
That has happened in this house before, certainly in the last three years. Therefore, there is no point of order. If the Chief Minister chooses to answer that question, it is quite within standing orders for her to do so. As members are well aware, if our own standing orders do not cover particular issues, we refer to House of Representatives Practice. I repeat that page 505 allows the transfer of questions. I call the Chief Minister.
MS CARNELL: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. To start with, Mr Hargreaves's question was actually wrong, because the Government has not given - - -
Mr Hargreaves: How could a question be wrong?
MS CARNELL: I do not know, but you are wrong. You are factually incorrect in your question. Mr Speaker, the shareholders have not given the okay for the sale of Ecowise. We have not yet been asked to do so, Mr Speaker. Certainly, if the decision of ACTEW in the end is to sell Ecowise, then that decision will come back to the shareholders. But, as I have said on both days of this sitting period, what has happened at this stage is that this issue has not come to a shareholders meeting. If a decision to sell Ecowise to its employees were made, it would, and then Mr Humphries and I would make a final decision.
This is probably a good opportunity to answer a question that Mr Corbell asked yesterday about a date. On 23 March, the chairman of the board and the chief executive of ACTEW indicated to me in a private meeting that they were interested in looking at whether a staff buyout of Ecowise Services had support from the staff members. As I have said in this place, I said to them, "I think that is a good idea. I think it is something that would be of benefit to the staff members. Go for it". That is exactly where it is up to at this stage, Mr Speaker. I do believe that it is a good idea. But no decision has been taken at this stage for Ecowise to be sold to its employees. If that decision is taken, then it will come to a shareholders meeting.
MR SPEAKER: Mr Hargreaves, do you have a supplementary question?
MR HARGREAVES: Yes, Mr Speaker. I address my question to the Deputy Chief Minister, the Chief Minister or any other Minister that wants to play table tennis about responsibilities in this regard. I am particularly interested in the response of the Deputy Chief Minister, who seems to have deferred his responsibilities as a 50 per cent shareholder. Can the Minister say whether this threshold of $400,000 or 50 people will permit this Government to abrogate its responsibilities to its shareholders and allow the sale of other smaller enterprises, such as the Cemeteries Trust, without reference to shareholders but with merely reference to a board?
MS CARNELL: Mr Speaker, as I just said, if the decision is taken to sell Ecowise, that decision will come to a shareholders meeting. The fact is that it has not come to a shareholders meeting because a decision has not been taken. What has been said, what has been determined at this stage, is that the decision on whether you go down the path that they are going down has to be left to the board. The board has to make