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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (26 May) . . Page.. 588 ..

MR OSBORNE (continuing):

a long, hard look at what they are jamming down our throats and admitting that it may not be perfect; it may, in fact, be far from perfect. No, I am not anti-competition or against competition policy, but I am opposed to unquestioned faith in any particular economic theory.

I have two main concerns about the Australia-wide drive to embrace competition policy. The first is that the decisions have been made by the super-executive of the Council of Australian Governments without the proper scrutiny of Australia's parliaments. Debate on that issue has been raised many times in this Assembly, especially in the last 12 months. The second is that the policy itself may be flawed, or at the very least its implementation by this Government may be flawed. You will recall, Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, that I have raised concerns about COAG in this place before. Last year I said that I had a growing sense of disquiet about decisions which were hammered out by the Prime Minister, Premiers and Chief Ministers and then delivered to parliaments around Australia as a fait accompli. The laws and rules COAG proposes are often broad in their sweep and have far-reaching and different consequences in different jurisdictions. The decisions are often tied to funding, as we all know, and anyone who dares to raise concerns about them is shouted down as a wrecker who is hell-bent on jeopardising funding for their State or Territory. So, Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, there is no real opportunity for genuine scrutiny of this process.

Governments claim that these ideas have been around for a long time and that they have been widely debated, but I reject that. There is a difference between a debate held by policy wallies and a broad-based community debate. In reality, I do not believe most people know how sweeping these changes are, or how far they reach into everyone's life. The competition policy Bills will radically change the way in which we get basic services like electricity and water. They will also have implications for ACTION, ACTTAB and the taxi industry, to name a few. As we have seen, they can even reach down and swallow up a local pool. Where is Mr Stefaniak? They will affect the price of milk and reach into regulated private sector enterprises like chemists and newsagencies. In criticising the politicians driving the COAG process, I am well aware that, at least on the national stage, both the Labor and the Liberal parties have basically agreed on the process.

I have said a number of times inside and outside this place that we are reaping today the seeds sown by the Federal Labor Party and agreed to by the local Labor Party back in 1994. I think it is only fair and right to remember that the ALP drove this process from the start. It is not good enough for the Labor Party now simply to throw up its hands and criticise the result. It is up to the ALP to acknowledge their role in shaping the competition rules that we have today and to make a positive contribution to the current debate.

I am not the only one in this place who has drawn attention to the problems with the way COAG and its offshoots do business. The Greens have attacked the process, and even the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Community Safety, Gary Humphries, has recognised the problems inherent in national systems of legislation. In his speech to the National Futures Conference on 29 September last year, he said that the principle of merit review was well entrenched in the ACT's way of doing business and governance, but what threat there was came from schemes of national legislation. He said:

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