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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 958 ..

MS CARNELL (continuing):

with what percentage of the vote - 30 per cent, on their good days - should determine the decisions on this very important issue all by themselves. Not a majority, Mr Speaker; not a simple majority; but the Labor Party all by themselves! This has nothing to do with democracy; this is all to do with political expediency and, I have to say, downright arrogance.

MR QUINLAN (9.30): Mr Speaker, I rise to support the Bill and actually to speak to the Bill, as opposed to what might be defined as a special majority later.

Ms Carnell: What it is is in Mr Corbell's letter.

MR QUINLAN: Let us do it by stages, shall we? Let us have it come to the Assembly first and let us decide the majority second. The essence of the debate swings on whether we accept that we have a minority government and that a minority government could, without reference to the Assembly, take irrevocable decisions that have quite significant long-term effects. We have seen this Government in relation to Ecowise, a part of ACTEW, be very dismissive - not dismissive of the Assembly's capacity to decide, but dismissive of their own responsibility to decide. "We will leave it to the board" was said in response to questions in this place. We have received in this place misinformation on the economic performance of ACTTAB, intended, I presume, for public consumption and to soften up and pave the way for a sale.

We have received in this place from Fay Richwhite a report that purports to justify serious consideration of the sale of ACTEW because it is claimed that it is at risk. But it is not all at risk; only a portion of ACTEW is at risk. This is not an impressive report. It does not contain the alternative - the option of partitioning ACTEW, separating water and sewerage from electricity and separating electricity retail from distribution. The facts are that only a portion of ACTEW is at genuine risk, namely, that which it markets, the contestable part of its business. I have to say and say again: That which is at risk with ACTEW is no longer ours to sell, and that which is ours to sell is no longer at risk. But we are having another evaluation, and we await it with misgivings. When those findings materialise, I believe it must rest with the full Assembly to evaluate and decide upon the recommendations that it might make.

That consultant's review must consider, and must demonstrate that it has addressed, all of the consequences of the sale of public assets. Yes, we will consider the money we are going to receive, the application of same, and the revenue stream that we are forgoing as a consequence of disposing of that asset. But this Assembly needs to be assured that the review is fully embracing of the problem or the question. It must embrace potential job losses - those that are direct job losses and those that are consequential flow-ons from a reduction in that work force. It must take into account potential price increases that may accrue to private citizens and to our business sector and that impact on our economy. It must take into account the risks of asset stripping, either directly or by allowing assets to run down; of investment being reduced, bringing about a degradation in service through cost minimisation.

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