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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (27 October) . . Page.. 2280 ..


MR HARGREAVES: Mr Speaker, through you to the Acting Chief Minister: It is your day. Can the Acting Chief Minister tell the Assembly exactly what he meant when he said, as reported by the Canberra Times on 23 October 1998, that the sale of ACTTAB was "well and truly off the Government's agenda"? Why was it that the Acting Chief Minister announced this policy decision instead of the Chief Minister, even though he acknowledged in the same article that the sale of ACTTAB was, and is, in the hands of Mrs Carnell?

MR HUMPHRIES: Let me say, first of all, that I did not say that the decision was in the hands of Mrs Carnell. I actually said that, to a large extent, the decision was in the hands of the stakeholders. As you know, Mr Speaker, a number of parties came together with the Government some months ago to talk about the future of ACTTAB. Again, we put before those stakeholders the evidence of the PKF report that there was a problem with the future of ACTTAB unless it was to reorganise its position in the marketplace. We discussed those issues with the stakeholders. We came back for a second meeting about three weeks afterwards and, although I was not present at the second meeting, I think it is true to say that there were several reservations among the stakeholders, including the racing clubs, the unions and the bodies associated with the racing industry itself. There was a concern that the situation was unclear and that we ought not to proceed at this stage to some form of partial sale or full sale of ACTTAB.

Mr Speaker, what I said last week to the media was that, in my view, that left the situation very much in the hands of the stakeholders, that the Government was unlikely to proceed to put forward proposals for the privatisation of ACTTAB while the stakeholders were of the view that we should not move in that direction. That is an accurate description of the Government's position. I hope I have made it clear that no decision has been made about the future of ACTTAB, that it is possible we could return to that issue in the future. But, as I have said, I think that is most likely to occur, if it does occur, on the basis of urging by the stakeholders, or large parts of them, rather than by the Government itself.

MR HARGREAVES: Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. Given the Chief Minister's comments during the election campaign in February that the sale of ACTEW was "not on our agenda", can the Acting Chief Minister explain what is the difference between being off the Government's agenda, which are your words, as quoted in the Canberra Times, and not being on it, which were the Chief Minister's words? What is the difference?

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, I have made it quite clear that in both cases the starting point was very similar. We have not ruled in or out any particular option about the future of ACTTAB. To give you an answer to a question you have been posing to all sorts of Ministers in the course of the last few days of Estimates Committee hearings, I am not ruling out the future possible sale of ACTTAB. It may occur. Mr Speaker, I am also making it clear in this context that it is not an issue that is likely to occupy any great amount of the Government's time and attention in the immediate future. As I have said - and I will say it again - it is most likely that a move to put that issue higher on the agenda will be initiated by the stakeholders rather than by the Government.

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