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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 7 Hansard (24 September) . . Page.. 2205 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

an energy service. We believe that it could compete right round Australia, that it could have customers coming from right round Australia because ACTEW employs best practice as an energy service, that ACTEW would save everyone money because it employs best practice in energy management".

Sure, Ecowise it is just one small section of ACTEW, but it is another section that brings in income. That is what I find so disturbing about this sale and why I am not prepared to support it. I do not support the sale of public assets, unless a very strong argument is presented to show that there will not be any bad impacts of the sale on the community, that there will not be an impact on jobs and that there will not be an impact long term on the sustainability, including environmental sustainability, of our region. None of those things has been put persuasively today. (Extension of time granted) None of those things has been argued convincingly today. Labor has raised issues about jobs, community benefit and disadvantaged people. Disadvantaged people will be the ones who ultimately will suffer when you have a profit-motivated private sector running ACTEW, and Ecowise is part of ACTEW. I am sorry; you cannot separate that. We want to build up ACTEW. We do not want to cut it back. We want to see ACTEW getting in with guts, as Ms Carnell puts it, and looking at how we can grow in the deregulated environment. We need to be prepared to develop a strategy to ensure its success by being prepared to go beyond core business and finding different directions for ACTEW. I am sorry to say that, despite the rather theatrical presentation from the Government, the heartfelt presentations from the Government about ideology, I am not persuaded that this proposal is based on much more than that. I believe that it is not going to be in the long-term interest of the community.

Mr Humphries accused us - it would include me, obviously, because I am supporting the position of Labor - of not caring about 50 jobs. I care about 50 jobs; I care about all the jobs in ACTEW. I care about the broader Canberra community and I care about the long-term sustainability of this city.

MR RUGENDYKE (4.17): I think that what we have here is a unique situation. When I first heard about the proposed buyout of Ecowise by its employees, I thought I should ring around some contacts in the industry and people that might have an idea of the pros and cons of this sort of venture without getting into the political philosophies of it all. Of course, the major concerns are jobs, viability and all the other things that go with maintaining a business and making sure a business functions as it should. I have done my best to see that this proposal, if it is to go ahead, will benefit the people involved, that it will benefit the community and that it will be a good thing.

When I put the concerns that I had to various people, those concerns were allayed. In fact, what we have here, Mr Speaker, is a terrific opportunity for those people in the gallery here to be in control of their own destinies, to take on something that, obviously, they are passionate about, keen to do. I wish them luck, Mr Speaker, if this proposal goes ahead. I see that an independent valuation of the market value of Ecowise was done. It seems that that is the price that will be paid. That was one of the concerns that I had. Overall, Mr Speaker, I congratulate these blokes for their initiative in bringing this proposal to the Government and wish them luck in their venture and in their future and for the future of their families.

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