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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 927 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

a great deal of responsibility for raising funds for our public schools now - said how disappointed she was to see so many local shops going out of business, because, when she goes to Woolworths to get sponsorship or a subsidy, guess what. They are not interested. They are not a local business. So, there are all these other flow-on effects that we do not usually hear articulated as well as she did. As members know, this submission from the Milk Authority is on the record. There is a more recent submission as well. I will not go right through the submission; but what we can see clearly is that there are very strong arguments for community benefit in keeping this industry in its present form.

Mr Speaker, after yesterday's budget - where the next wave of competition-type reforms, in the shape of comparative pricing, has appeared - an objective observer would be even more convinced that the Government is trying to reshape itself into a business. As we see, competition policy reforms are being used to justify a whole wave of associated reforms to government and the community sectors. Hilmer himself has said that competition policy principles should not really be used in human services - but they are. We do not have services and citizens anymore; we have outputs, outcomes and customers or consumers. We have become almost hardened to all the language of competition policy: Micro-economic reform, outsourcing, competitive tendering, community service obligations, purchaser-provider splits, benchmarking, et cetera.

There has been almost a sense of apathy about all the changes that are taking place to the public and community sectors, often with very little public debate. That is starting to change. It is of very grave concern to me that the backlash against economic rationalism is taking the form of finding scapegoats in our community - the very groups who are often the victims themselves from a preoccupation with economic considerations above all else. So, the populist reaction is gaining momentum. "Wedge politics", as Noel Pearson so aptly calls it, is driving groups in the community against each other. We saw the result of it recently in Queensland. Mr Speaker, it is time that the Assembly took control of the implementation of competition policy. I believe that it has been left in the hands of the Executive for too long, and the consequences of this are being felt throughout many sectors of the community.

MR CORBELL (5.30): Mr Speaker, I rise to support Mr Osborne's motion and Mr Hargreaves's amendment. There have been a number of issues raised in this debate that I feel I really should address. The first is the comment from the other side of the Assembly that, really, national competition policy does not have anything to do with them. The Government says, "National competition policy has nothing to do with us. The Labor Party signed the agreement". Yes, the Labor Party did sign it; but it is disingenuous of the Liberal Party to suggest that, really, they would rather not have anything to do with it.

Mr Speaker, I draw to the Assembly's attention one simple thing that indicates just how rusted-on this Liberal Party is when it comes to competition policy. Governments have options under competition policy. One of those is how you test competition activity. Mr Speaker, there is an option for governments to apply competition policy to significant government business enterprises or to all government business enterprises.

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