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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (27 October) . . Page.. 2263 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

Mr Speaker, members will be aware that the market for the commercial supply of electricity is now open, that a number of suppliers are operating in the ACT marketplace and that further deregulation is due to occur, I think, in November of this year. Mr Speaker, I understand that in the year 2000 we can expect residential purchasers of electricity also to have an option available to them to purchase outside ACTEW. What that means is that, like Telstra and countless other government monopolies before it, ACTEW will have to demonstrate that it can provide better, cheaper, more reliable services than its competitors in order to remain capable of delivering those services and retaining those customers.

The 175 different sites which have already been lost by ACTEW are simply a taste of the future unless we, as a community, are prepared to give ACTEW the necessary tools to allow it to compete in that new marketplace. Mr Speaker, the Government's contention that it does not have those tools under government ownership has been very clear.

MR SPEAKER: Do you have a supplementary question, Mr Stanhope?

MR STANHOPE: Yes, thank you, Mr Speaker. Acknowledging that the Acting Chief Minister does disagree with the Chief Minister's description of the nature of the contracts or the sites lost, can the Acting Chief Minister say why the Government has chosen to issue media releases which are so obviously loose with the truth on an issue as important as the possible sale of our biggest asset?

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, I think this is a case of he who is without sin should cast the first stone. In this debate, Mr Speaker, I think members of the Labor Opposition have a great deal to answer for when it comes to issuing untruthful press releases, and I will be saying something more on that later in question time.

ACTEW - Sale

MR HIRD: Mr Speaker, I will follow on from the theme of the Leader of the Opposition. I have a question for the Acting Chief Minister, Mr Humphries. I heard in the media assertions that consumers will face massive changes to power and water services and pay more for them when ACTEW is sold. What can you say about these reports, and are they accurate, Acting Chief Minister?

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, this follows very neatly on from the previous question, and I thank Mr Hird for it. Mr Speaker, at the beginning of this debate when the Government put on the table the scoping study from ABN AMRO we had a call from one member of the Opposition that we should have an open and honest debate about ACTEW's privatisation. Mr Speaker, I think that that was a reasonable call to make, but it was not a call that was heeded almost as soon as it was made by the very side of politics from which it came. It is important, Mr Speaker, that we do not engage in half-truths, scaremongering and intellectual dishonesty in this process as we move to decide what the future of ACTEW should be. This is, perhaps, the most important financial decision that this Territory is likely ever to make. If we are not able to make that decision on the basis of full possession of the facts, then we place ourselves in the difficult position of being unable to make the right decision.

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