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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 2 Hansard (21 May) . . Page.. 513 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

Mr Deputy Speaker, risk covers a lot of things. The Fay Richwhite report outlines a range of risks, including equity, non-performance, regulatory and policy risks. It fails to mention other risks, like the risk of loss of economic sovereignty. This is an issue of serious concern to the people of Canberra. The people of Canberra do not want to have companies that provide essential services in hands that are outside their control. That is a real concern - that an investment that they have made for many decades will potentially be lost and will be outside their control. These are very valid arguments. They are not arguments that can be swept under the table simply because competition policy is now in place. They are issues that must continue to be addressed. We should not throw them out simply because we made one decision several years ago. They continue to be issues of relevance. They continue to be issues that must be addressed in this debate about ACTEW and its future.

Mr Deputy Speaker, there are a number of other points that I want to outline in this debate. The first is in relation to a comment in the report about the interpretation of the documents which establish ACTEW as a Territory-owned corporation. The report states quite clearly:

ACTEW's establishment documents could be interpreted as establishing a restrictive scope of business which may materially inhibit the ability of the Board to maximise the value of the business to the owner.

Mr Speaker, I regard this comment as nonsense. The establishment documents make it quite clear that ACTEW has a broad capacity to enter into a whole range of businesses, not purely the electricity supply business, not purely the water supply business, not purely the sewerage service business. There is a range of options that ACTEW may be able to pursue. I question why that comment is even in the report, except that perhaps it provides the Government with an opportunity to look at and eventually change provisions of the Territory Owned Corporations Act - conditions that underlie the very establishment of ACTEW. We raise our concerns about that in noting this paper today.

Finally, Mr Speaker, there is an issue here about what ACTEW has been doing, about how ACTEW has been managing its business to date. This is relevant when we look at the performance of this organisation. Earlier this month, on 16 May, when the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Commission brought down its views on electricity pricing in the ACT, the headline in the Canberra Times was, "ACTEW rapped for `unwise' buying". The commission said:

In retrospect, the commission is not convinced that ACTEW has purchased wisely in the competitive market. It is possible that ACTEW's customers may have benefited further had ACTEW chosen to purchase its electricity in alternative ways to those now in place.

Mr Speaker, this is an issue of management. This is an issue of how we can best manage ACTEW as a Territory-owned corporation. The Fay Richwhite report says that Fay Richwhite "has not undertaken a performance review of ACTEW as part of this assignment". Mr Speaker, when you think about the commission's views that I have just quoted, there could be very good grounds for a performance review of ACTEW. That is just as important as assessing all the other issues that have been put forward in this report.

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