Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 960 ..
MR MOORE (continuing):
The silly part in the legislation, to use the word the Chief Minister used, is this special majority. We have heard Mr Corbell previously talk about two-thirds being what he meant by a special majority. The special majority issue, of course, is one which could be overturned immediately if anybody wants to deal with the sale of any of the Territory-owned corporations, because all you have to do is say, "Okay; we have to come to the legislation anyway; so, we overturn the special majority"; or, easier still, "I move that so much of the standing orders be suspended as would allow me to ...". The issue can be resolved in that way. By the suspension of standing orders, which requires a simple majority, you can suspend the standing orders that set up the special majority. That is why I say it is really ill conceived and too simple.
The intention of the legislation - to ensure that any such matter would come before the Assembly - is an entirely different matter. I know that Mr Corbell is genuine in his desire to ensure that such matters come before the Assembly. I believe that no government would contemplate, and no government ever has contemplated, dealing with these sorts of issues without bringing them before the Assembly, because there are too many ways in which an Assembly can ensure that a minority government is required to do so. I can hear Mr Berry laughing, and there is no doubt why he is laughing. When he was a Minister he probably tried to get away with lots of things - and he may well have done - and that may set the tone. But in fact, Mr Speaker, that has not been the practice in the Assembly for many years.
First of all, it is an unnecessary piece of legislation; but it is also ill conceived in the way that it is constructed. An issue like this is not one that any government could sneak through the Assembly and say, "Well, it is done; too bad". The sale of Territory-owned corporations is a matter of considerable community interest and will always be something that an Assembly would deal with.
MR CORBELL (9.42), in reply: Mr Speaker, the Labor Party does believe that this is an important piece of legislation and a necessary piece of legislation, and I thank the members who have indicated their support for it this evening. The Government has made a suggestion that there is no need for this legislation because any sale of a Territory-owned corporation would require an amendment of the Territory Owned Corporations Act to remove that company from the schedule. That is probably true. But when would that removal take place? It would take place once the decision to sell had been made; it would take place when it was too late for this Assembly to express its opinion on the matter, because the Territory Owned Corporations Act makes provision for a shareholders meeting to take place to decide on the future of the organisation.
When we are talking about a shareholders meeting, we are not talking about an enormous hall, full of people raising their hands. We are talking about two people; we are talking about the Chief Minister and, usually, the relevant portfolio Minister. They are the shareholders and the people who will vote on the future of the company.