Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 7 Hansard (24 September) . . Page.. 2166 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
We have to concede that we cannot do that as effectively when other much larger constraints bear down on an enterprise. We can do it when the people who operate the business, who know what is good for the business, who know what is going to be necessary to seek future work for that business, are given the guiding hand in what that business does.
I urge members opposite not to let their ideological preoccupation opposing privatisation in all circumstances stop them from supporting this motion. This motion is important for the future of a number of people in this community and all of us, every one of us in this place, should support it for that reason.
MR QUINLAN (12.15): Mr Speaker, with your indulgence, I will go back in history a little. Before the corporatisation of ACTEW - way back in the days of the Electricity Authority and before we got to the modern game of playing industrial moguls and setting up ACTEW as a whole series of companies that would do credit to CRA - there was an area that had the humble title of the electrical services branch, or something in that order. There was a deliberate and rational method of ensuring that the organisation had immediate call at reasonable cost on the full spectrum of technical and professional skills it needed. Sometimes in the business that it was in it needed immediate call. Those skills were critical at times. They were part of the core business. They were part of essential services.
This branch provided services to other government agencies which also needed immediate service, such as the Department of Defence, Parliament House, hospitals, housing, whatever. That external work allowed that branch to be of a size and to have the spectrum of skills needed for the essential core work of ACTEW. The synergy between the external activities and the internal activities ensured overall efficiency and viability accruing to the core business. In latter years, I understand, it has been subjected to external competition within the business relationship with ACTEW and, equally, has been able to compete with the private sector - fairly well from time to time.
Over many years, 20 years or more, elements of the private sector have claimed unfairness, that they should be given the work without competition from a public enterprise. Let us say that the private sector would, quite sensibly, use any medium that they could to apply pressure to make sure that that work accrued to them. The thing is that this branch provided, within metering, a number of services that were essential to the operation of ACTEW. It was diversified so that it had a viability. It was still a core part of the business. I do not know exactly how the mindset within ACTEW is, but it was an important function before we saw the outward signs of more adoption of economic rationalism.
This particular branch also contributed to industry in the ACT. It provided apprenticeships every year and developed those apprenticeships. It provided for an exchange of trainees and apprentices so that they got the full spectrum of experience to qualify them. It provided tradespeople, to the benefit of industry and the benefit of the ACT, under the banner of a good corporate citizen. I do not know whether that role exists anymore, but it certainly looks like it may well be in danger if it exists at all now. I think it is an important role that it has carried out over many years, contributing to the ACT.