Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 7 Hansard (24 September) . . Page.. 2201 ..
Mr Humphries: No, I did not say that. I said, "Hardly anything".
MR BERRY: Hardly anything. It was not because of any absence of intent; that is clear. It was just that you could not get it through this place. In the course of debate, Mr Speaker, I noticed that much was said about how the decision to privatise was justified on the basis that it was being sold to the workers. The difficulty here is that the people who own it have not been involved in the consultation on the issue, that is, the people of the ACT. A very quick decision has been made in relation to this matter on the basis of - - -
Ms Carnell: That is us.
MR BERRY: Yes, Chief Minister. The Chief Minister says, "That is us"; that is, the Chief Minister as principal shareholder and one other Minister whose name escapes me at the moment. That does not give you the right to sell these sorts of assets at short notice, without consultation with the community. There has not been consultation with the community on this matter. You have to have some concern about the workers involved in Ecowise. If their job security had been guaranteed by the Government, I am sure that many of them would not have been so keen about the idea of purchasing it.
I have had a call in my office from a member of the family of somebody who was an employee of Ecowise, advocating the sale of it. Indeed, it troubled me a little because I was informed that this family was going into debt to buy whatever portion of the arrangement they could buy. It also troubled me today to listen to, I think, the Deputy Chief Minister talk about the possibility of Ecowise not being successful in picking up in the future contracts which it holds at the moment. I think he was saying that they will not be picking them up. That became clear to me. I am more than a little bit troubled about this whole arrangement. Yes, you have to take the employees into account and nobody wants to see jobs go, but it troubles me that there has been an effort to say to employees, "Look, if you want your job you are going to have to buy it, because if we do not privatise this organisation your job is going to go". That is not an appropriate course.
Let me refer now to one other thing. All of the shillyshallying about the rights and wrongs of privatising this enterprise have to be considered against the background of the Government's ideological position. The Government has a philosophy of privatising. Ecowise is about getting the foot in the door, and it has been dressed up accordingly. Let us not forget that in 1995, at the notorious love-in, the Government made a decision to privatise all GBEs, abolish the Milk Authority and sell off the cemeteries. They have not made the effort to sell off the cemeteries yet because Trevor Kaine was in a position as Minister to make sure that it could not happen. This Government is about privatising all the GBEs and this is a foot-in-the-door approach to that.
Regrettably, the employees have been caught in a pincer movement in relation to the matter because they want to preserve job opportunities. We know that job security is the big issue out there in the community. I will bet that there would not be so many workers keen to buy a slab of Ecowise if their job security were guaranteed well into the future and they were not worried about it. What troubles me is that all of them will invest their redundancies in the purchase of a job, that is, purchase a part of the action in Ecowise.