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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 7 Hansard (23 September) . . Page.. 2102 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

It is time for the ACT Government to take competition and privatisation off the hidden agenda and put them right up front, even if it is inevitable that some public subsidy remains.

Mr Speaker, we cannot afford to walk away from these issues. They matter too much to the quality of service we deliver to the people of Canberra.

MR OSBORNE (4.03): From what I have seen in the past, I feel that this kind of industrial dispute is best sorted out through the normal industrial relations processes. I do not think that this is the time for a heavy-handed approach, certainly not one similar to that which was used on the waterfront earlier this year, or we could easily end up going through a situation similar to that.

I do, however, accept the Government's argument that the TWU does deserve a bit of hammering for the part they have played in bringing things to a head like this and that perhaps, as the Government alleges, they have demanded too much for too long. I would still prefer to see both sides involved in reasonable negotiation rather than have the Government come out swinging a sledgehammer. At this point I am not prepared to be a part of that approach.

I know that my Assembly colleague Mr Rugendyke believes that the Government's tactics will produce a better and cheaper bus service and has given them his support. I have no problem with him doing that, as he is an Independent member of the Assembly. I believe, as he does, that the obvious goal we should all be working towards is encouraging a more efficient, useful public transportation system. But at this stage I do not know whether I am convinced that the Government's approach is going to achieve that.

Mr Speaker, I am prepared to support Ms Tucker's motion and possibly Mr Hargreaves's motion to follow. However, I want to hear the closing speeches from both speakers. In saying that, I would like to point out, however, that supporting Ms Tucker's motion will bring the issue back to the floor of the Assembly. Then a decision will need to be made on whether we privatise some of the services. My advice to the union, Mr Speaker, is that they should come to a deal. I am prepared to give them some more time to negotiate the deal, but if something cannot be sorted out, whether through the Industrial Relations Commission or through negotiation with Mr Thurston, then we will have to consider our options. At this stage, as I said, I am prepared to support the motion, which allows more time. I am also prepared to support allowing the Government to look at their options.

This is a word of warning to both sides that you need to get back together and talk, but if at the end of the day a tough decision needs to be made then I am prepared to make it. At this stage I think we do need to allow them more time. That is why I will be supporting the general thrust of the two motions.

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