Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 7 Hansard (24 September) . . Page.. 2208 ..
MR OSBORNE (continuing):
We all know that there are voluntary redundancies, but different government departments can make life miserable for you if they want to get rid of you. I think that the workers had no choice other than to accept that, but I congratulate them for having the courage to invest their own money and be prepared to have a go.
There is no doubt that the electricity environment is a changing one. With the national grid and with competition coming into the ACT, ACTEW is facing threats on different fronts. As I said, there is no doubt that things will change over the next 12 months. This is, I think, a good way for the workers to secure their future. They are prepared to invest their money in buying the business and I am not going to stand in their way. As I said, this is a unique situation. It is the first time that I can recall it happening. I have to say that I, like Mr Kaine, was approached by representatives of the workers who wanted to buy Ecowise, and it has only been in the last 48 hours that I have been approached by some union people who are opposed to it. The only correspondence and the only telephone calls that I received in relation to Ecowise were to the effect that the workers were very keen for the sale to go through because they were going to invest some money in their future.
Mr Corbell: That is not true.
MR OSBORNE: It is true.
Mr Corbell: It is not the union's problem if your office is closed half the time.
MR OSBORNE: I am sorry?
Mr Corbell: It is not the union's problem if you were not in your office half the time when they came to see you.
MR OSBORNE: I am not in my office half the time? What does that mean, you goose? I had a meeting yesterday with Mr Neville Betts, a member of the union. I had a meeting today with another representative. They acknowledge that they had not approached me. So, the comment from what's-his-name over there really does not carry any weight, Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker. As I said, we have been approached only this week by people opposed to it. No-one from the Labor Party has approached any of my staff or me about it. This is a unique situation. The workers want to buy it and I am prepared to back them on having a go in this enterprise. I will be supporting the Government, as it appears the majority of members will be.
MR HARGREAVES (4.32): Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, it saddens me to have to take part in this debate. It is an awful precedent that we are embracing here. The position that these people have been put in is a dreadful one. It escapes me why they should have been put in this position at all. We have a small business arm of ACTEW, if you like, which is functioning quite nicely, thank you very much. It has the impetus, it has the talent and it has the professionalism within its ranks to be a viable business. That is proven in abundance by their preparedness as a group to launch out on their own.