Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 1 Hansard (28 April) . . Page.. 63 ..
MR RUGENDYKE: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Chief Minister. Chief Minister, I noted in last year's ACT budget that ACTEW was required to pay the Government coffers an extra $100m dividend to help plug the Territory's black hole. To your knowledge, Chief Minister, has this amount been paid?
MS CARNELL: Mr Speaker, it either has been paid or is very close to being paid. I know that, at the last ACTEW board meeting, resolutions were entered into on how that payment would occur. So, certainly at the last board meeting it had not been paid; but they certainly have undertaken to pay it before the end of the financial year, which is when we need it by.
MR RUGENDYKE: I have a supplementary question, Mr Speaker. At the announcement of the payment of that dividend, the deputy head of ACTEW, Mr Paul Perkins, was adamant that the corporation would most likely have to borrow the whole $100m. During Estimates Committee hearings last year, I believe that the then Minister responsible for ACTEW, Mr Kaine, said that ACTEW was well cashed up and would have no problem in paying this amount from its reserves. To your knowledge, Chief Minister, will ACTEW need to borrow to pay this dividend?
MS CARNELL: Mr Rugendyke, congratulations on your first question. ACTEW could pay this in a number of different ways. It is my understanding that ACTEW will probably mix it. There is some in reserves, and some will be borrowed in a commercial way. Mr Speaker, it is certainly true that ACTEW is very well cashed up. In fact, as we know from independent information, not recently given, ACTEW has the lowest debt-equity ratio of any electricity distributor in Australia. It is certainly well cashed up. As we also know, Mr Speaker, although there have been some losses of clientele in recent days because of the competitive market that currently is in place around Australia, ACTEW has had a very profitable, shall we say, first six months of the year. The Yallourn deal, that Ms Tucker was very negative about, of course, has meant that the price at which we buy electricity has floated down and the profitability is high.
Mr Speaker, I am advised that the $100m has yet to be paid. It certainly will be paid by 30 June, the end of the financial year. There are a number of processes that have to be gone through, obviously, to achieve that. Mr Speaker, I think it is currently estimated that ACTEW has made the decision that it will borrow approximately $70m and will use $30m out of its reserves. Mr Speaker, with current interest rates and so on, you have to expect that ACTEW will make a decision based upon what is the best return.
MR CORBELL: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Chief Minister. Will the Chief Minister clarify for the record whether any agency or department of the ACT Government or ACTTAB itself has formally or informally made any approach to or had any discussions with any party about buying ACTTAB?