Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (27 October) . . Page.. 2300 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
What does that equate to in terms of impact on ordinary citizens of this Territory? What it is equal to, Mr Speaker, is the doubling of rates in the Territory. It is equal to taking whatever you pay in rates each year and doubling it. That is how much extra money we will need to raise to meet that extra superannuation burden at its height - a doubling of that rates bill.
Mr Speaker, it would be easy for us at this stage to say, "Let us deal with that then and let us sort it out at that stage". That is not responsible. One hundred million dollars is the equivalent of educating 15,000 primary school students in Canberra. It is the equivalent of that amount of money, Mr Speaker. But there is no alternative to the courses of action if you do not sell a major asset like ACTEW. You can cut services or you can increase taxes. There is a third alternative: You can cut the level of superannuation benefits to those public servants whose entitlements form the bulk of this liability. You can reduce that level of liability, Mr Speaker; but that is an option which this Government rules out, and which I hope we would all rule out. It leaves, therefore, the other two alternatives - cutting services or increasing taxes.
Mr Corbell laid down a challenge for members of the crossbench in this debate: Take part; say something in this debate about this particular issue. I lay down a challenge for the Opposition in this debate as well: You tell us how you would fund those sorts of liabilities. What would you reduce in the way of government outlays; what would you increase in the way of government taxes and charges to meet that kind of liability; or would you reduce the level of superannuation entitlement of ACT government employees? If you have an alternative, put it on the table now for us to see. I have not seen those alternatives yet.
Mr Speaker, we propose to take that money - the proceeds of the sale of ACTEW - and invest it in a number of important ways. The net effect of investing the lion's share of the ACTEW sale proceeds in superannuation is that we cut the cost virtually in half over the 40 years, with only modest additional contributions from government. Instead of $3 billion, the cost is just over $1.5 billion; and, after 40 years approximately, $800m of that nest egg I am talking about remains in the investment account to cover the ongoing superannuation costs. In other words, Mr Speaker, after 40 years, that ACTEW money is still there generating returns and paying those superannuation costs.
So those who say that this is an exercise in taking the money and squandering it on short-term political gain have totally misunderstood what this is all about. It is not about that. It is about putting it into a source which will actually retain its value in a way which, according to these reports, ACTEW itself will not. ACTEW is changing now in its relationship to its marketplace. The nature of ACTEW's competitive position is deteriorating. We cannot expect into the future to get the level of dividend from ACTEW we are now getting. Do not take my word for it. Take the views of successive expert opinions to this Assembly. The Fay Richwhite report, the ABN AMRO report and, incidentally, the views of David Hughes and others in the marketplace have made similar very strong suggestions.