Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 7 Hansard (23 September) . . Page.. 2069 ..
MR QUINLAN (12.10): Mr Speaker, not for the first time in my brief period in this place do I rise to take part in a debate where we have shifted ground. This debate has its genesis not just in the privatisation of ACTION but in the timing of what was done by this Government during the EBA negotiations. That is the critical point: The spectre of privatisation was raised at a crucial point in negotiations. I have had, in my past life, a little experience in public sector management and I have to say that this exercise is close to the very worst strategy in personnel management that I have witnessed. This particular Minister really does know how to manage people, does he not?
There has been some discussion in this debate previously on the willingness of the Government and the Minister to negotiate. I have in front of me the ownership agreement for 1998-99 for ACTION. It has a staff profile that shows a reduction in staff from present numbers of 110 - something in the order of 15 per cent. The union does not know anything about this, the workers do not know anything about this, but this is, according to the agreement, based on current plans. If that is an example of how this Government negotiates or how this Government informs its workers, there is no wonder that we have an industrial impasse from time to time.
While I have the ownership agreement open, let me refer to section 2 which relates to performance and utilisation measures. On several of these measures ACTION stacks up rather well. It has the lowest number of vehicles in excess of demand. On the other hand, its passenger boardings per kilometre are also the lowest in Australia. That means that we are carrying fewer passengers per seat or per bus. That is not a fault of the drivers. That is not a fault of the union. It is because of the ACT's geography and the way Canberra is laid out. It is a result of management decision-making, poor decision-making in route design.
Ms Carnell: That is exactly what the Graham report said and that is why they said we need a new network.
MR QUINLAN: Well, do not take it out on the workers.
Ms Carnell: That is what the new network is about.
Mr Corbell: That is what you are doing. You are blaming the union.
Ms Carnell: They knocked it back.
MR QUINLAN: Negotiate. Do not bring out the broadsword. The return on assets is comparable with New South Wales. The operating performance stacks up rather well.
Ms Carnell: It depends on how you look at operating performance.
MR QUINLAN: Well, they are your numbers. There is, quite obviously, very ample room to negotiate within the current structure without pulling out the broadaxe and threatening privatisation, which is designed, obviously, to allow negotiations to break down totally. How can you negotiate in an atmosphere like that? You cannot because you do not really want to.