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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 2 Hansard (21 May) . . Page.. 514 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

(Extension of time granted) It is just as important to look at the performance of ACTEW to date, the performance of management to date, the performance of the shareholders and the directions they give to management, as it is to look at issues to do with ownership and as it is to deal with issues of risk.

This is a complex debate. It is not an easy debate. It is a debate that we have to have. But I would like to see options that are not currently being pursued heavily by this Government being pursued with more seriousness, because at stake is the ownership and the effectiveness of an asset that is worth many millions of dollars to the Territory and an asset that is very valuable to the economic future of the Territory.

MS TUCKER (4.50): Mr Speaker, I must say that I did not find this a very inspiring report, in terms of providing any analysis of the options that are available to ACTEW to become more innovative in the new competitive environment. As Ms Carnell noted, the report says:

ACTEW's growth opportunities lie with new services within its existing area and/or traditional/new services outside the ACT ie. continued growth in ACTEW's business value requires an expanded business scope. The growth opportunities within the ACT are limited. The majority of growth opportunities are outside the ACT.

However, I would have found the report much more informative in terms of debating the future of ACTEW if there had been some discussion about the nature of those growth opportunities and how those growth opportunities could be pursued. I note that the report does not really make any recommendations - not overt ones, anyway, though one can read between the lines - that ACTEW should be sold, as the report states:

The Government as owner on behalf of the community should make a positive decision about capturing the full commercial value of ACTEW rather than by default allowing the business to stagnate.

In any debates about ACTEW's future, we seem to come down to an ideological debate about whether the company should be in private or public ownership. In my opinion, this pre-empts a very important debate we should be having about how we can make ACTEW a thriving, profitable company. Why can ACTEW not remain in public hands and respond positively to the new challenges? We do not have to say, "It is all hopeless; so, we may as well sell off our biggest public asset". As other members are aware, I have been advocating for some time the need for ACTEW to expand its horizons. While there is some innovative work taking place on the water side, in energy management we could be doing a lot better.

ACTEW's current energy management policy is reactive, defensive and, quite frankly, backward looking. ACTEW has not taken up the challenge that was thrown to it in 1995, when its name was changed to "ACT Energy and Water". It is still too narrowly focused on selling electricity. While the Fay Richwhite report seems to think ACTEW is constrained by the objectives the Greens added to ACTEW's corporate objectives, in relation to ecological sustainability, I believe that this is where the opportunities lie - in offering new energy services.

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