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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 7 Hansard (24 September) . . Page.. 2204 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

I assume that this motion will be passed, because I assume that Mr Moore, Mr Rugendyke and Mr Osborne will support it, although Mr Rugendyke says we should not assume that. I am looking forward to hearing him speak. Basically, I believe that what we will see is a good enterprise in a way, if it has to be sold, in that the employees will have bought it, and I think that is great. But, as I have said, we have no guarantee that this situation will be continuing. If they found that it was profitable to sell off this business that they own, why would you blame them if they did? That is how the market works. The arguments that have been put today are short-term arguments indeed.

I was also interested to hear once again the argument underlying this decision of the Government that the service will be subject to private sector competition and will be able to compete only if it is private. It is the same argument that we hear often from Liberals: Private is good, public is bad; private is cheap, public is expensive. When the Liberal Government argued for the corporatisation of ACTEW, they said in this place many times with great enthusiasm that it was necessary to corporatise ACTEW so that it could operate in a commercial way. What has happened? They corporatised it and it is not working. Now, they want to sell it because it cannot compete.

What is particularly disappointing is the way in which this Government has run ACTEW down - it is so prepared to forecast failure - and the way it resorts to sale. The Government has not acknowledged its own failings in being able to guarantee the profit-motivated private sector can manage essential public services in a way which serves the community now and for the future. It is a dogmatic, narrow, unimaginative vision. In fact, it is a vision which, sadly, totally lacks confidence from a government that claims to be businesslike and successful in its ability to run a business. If there was one thing I thought they would be sure to be good at, according to what they say and the constituency that they represent, it is that. They should be good at that. That has consistently been the argument for corporatisation. Apparently, the Government is not good at that.

I would not support this sale. It looks like a fire sale. There is no guarantee that the jobs will stay in Canberra, or that the employees will continue to run the business. The arguments put by the Government and by its supporters are, as usual, mostly unsupported and unconvincing. As Mr Corbell pointed out, Ecowise does bring in money and it will continue to bring in money. I imagine that it could be a little business that thrives while supporting and assisting ACTEW to maintain its viability, which is the really important part of this discussion, I believe.

We keep hearing that ACTEW itself is under threat, that it is not going to be able to compete in a deregulated environment. As I said, we have from the Government a very gloomy, very negative kind of attitude to its ability to compete. We are being told that this is not core business; so we should just sell it. The point is that we should look at how we can broaden ACTEW's role. We should be prepared to say, "Okay, it is not core business, but we want to keep it going. We believe that the community asset that ACTEW represents should have the opportunity to compete in a deregulated environment. We believe that it could be successful. We believe that it could be

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