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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (27 May) . . Page.. 632 ..

MR QUINLAN (continuing):

community asset is sold, the community has a right to know what the long-term costs and benefits will be and that the long-term impact will take precedence over short-term expediency exemplified in the budgets of the last two or three years brought down by this Government.

Objective evaluation for the sale of ACTEW must include the full value of benefits forgone if the asset is lost. That is income in perpetuity. If you believe in Costello's world of low interest rates and low CPI increases, the future value of an income stream is much higher than it would otherwise be if you do your present value sums - if you know what that means. We must also factor into the evaluation of sale of assets the indirect benefits, the employment that we may well be exporting if an organisation like ACTEW is absorbed into a larger organisation across Australia and the jobs are exported to the head office of that organisation, and the economic activity, or inactivity, that flows from that loss of wages within our community.

We also need to look at the additional costs to the community, the increase in the cost of energy. Let us presume that ACTEW is sold. It has the cheapest tariffs in Australia. Inevitably, domestic tariffs will increase. So what are we doing? We are going to charge the people of Canberra, through their electricity bill, a de facto tax. What have we gained? Nothing. We have just passed it on. We have laundered it. There is the potential as well for increases in the price of milk, in public transport or whatever items we are looking at and considering for public sale.

I repeat the mantra on ACTEW that that part of ACTEW that is at risk, identified by Fay Richwhite, is virtually no longer ours to sell and that part that is ours to sell is not at risk. For the purposes of where we go from here, let us ignore Fay Richwhite and wait for Huey, Dewey and Louie. We cannot justify the sale of any part of that without an objective and comprehensive evaluation that is laid open to scrutiny. The ALP recognises that the financial position of the ACT borders on the chronic. We are concerned that that problem has been ducked in budgets of the past few years, while there have been expenditures of dubious value such as the Bruce Stadium, massive amounts on "Feel the power", oral consultation services and other consultative reports of doubtful value.

We are concerned that the strategies that are to come out of this will, in fact, be long-term strategies and not expedient short-term strategies that will have inevitable long-term costs and virtually represent the economic vandalism that has been exhibited in budgets of the past. I support the motion and look forward to the involvement of the total Assembly in the evaluation of alternative arrangements. I return the challenge to Mr Osborne to contribute to that debate and to outline the strategies that we might undertake.

Debate (on motion by Mr Moore) adjourned.

Sitting suspended from 12.28 to 2.30 pm

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