Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (27 October) . . Page.. 2296 ..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
Mr Speaker, the other example I want to point to is Adelaide. The State Liberal Government in South Australia has franchised the Adelaide water supply and sewerage treatment facility. That is the same proposal that this Government is putting forward in relation to ACTEW - a franchise arrangement. In Adelaide, the franchise arrangement is for 15 years. In Adelaide, significant cuts occurred in the staffing levels of the water and sewerage authority. In Adelaide, their main sewage ponds died. The main sewerage plant for Adelaide collapsed - and it stank, Mr Speaker. No wonder the Adelaide people called it the "big pong", because that is what it was!
Maintenance cuts resulted in lower levels of oversight of the operation of the facility, the Bolivar sewage ponds; the biological control died; and the sewerage facility collapsed. It could not handle the amounts of sewage that it had to deal with. That was also a consequence of privatisation. That is why, Mr Speaker, we have raised this MPI today. Those facts speak for themselves. The reliability and the efficiency of the supply of these essential services are under question and are clearly demonstrated to be less effective in private ownership than they have been in public ownership. That is not an assertion. It is not an ideological position. Those are the clear and basic facts.
Mr Speaker, let me highlight another instance from Adelaide. In Adelaide, water bills have gone up; but, in a perverse kind of way, it is those people who use the least amount of water who are actually paying more. The customers in Adelaide who use 250 kilolitres a year have seen their bills go up by 25 per cent - 25 per cent for a 250-kilolitre user. That is an average household, Mr Speaker. It is not a big family; it is not a small family; it is an average family. But lower users - people who use less than 250 kilolitres of water - have seen their bills go up even higher, up to approximately 50 per cent. What sort of perverse arrangement is it where, the less water you use, the more you pay? That is exactly what has happened in South Australia. Again, it is a consequence of the privatisation of these essential services.
Mr Speaker, the other part of our MPI is in relation to the Government's failure to address this issue during the ACT election campaign. Despite what the Acting Chief Minister wanted us to believe in question time earlier today, the reality is that this Government played down its agenda in relation to privatisation. It was not on the agenda. It was not an issue. It was not there. There is this interesting comment in the Canberra Times today, in a letter to the editor:
Six months ago the sale of Actew was "just not on the agenda". Today it is the Government's major policy priority ...
Does that not suggest, Mr Speaker, that, all along, this Government has decided that it is time to sell these assets because it wants the cash?
Mr Speaker, what worries me about this debate, above all else, is the number of people I have seen signing a petition who were saying, "It will not matter, though, will it? They are going to sell it". This Government's attitude towards privatisation of ACTEW is undermining people's confidence in the ACT Government, in this Assembly and in the system of democratic government we have in the Territory. The Government continually refused to deal with this issue at the time when it should have been addressing it,