Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (27 October) . . Page.. 2303 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
We know about the terrible job losses that will be suffered. We know that in Victoria, after privatisation of electricity there, half the people employed in that industry lost their jobs. Thousands of jobs went. It will happen here. Those jobs will not remain in the ACT. They will go interstate. They will travel. That is what we currently do with a lot of our unemployment. We export it, and we will do so in that case. Not only will we lose the jobs, but those people forced out of work here in the ACT will not find other work here in Canberra. We know that.
I understand that a number of other people wish to participate in this debate. I am also keen about the invitation which Mr Corbell made to members of the crossbench to contribute to this debate so that the people of Canberra have some understanding of what they feel. Whilst I could go on, Mr Speaker, I will leave it there in the interest of brevity.
MR KAINE (4.42): Mr Speaker, I will be quite brief because I do not intend to traverse the advantages and disadvantages of sale. I think Mr Corbell has outlined quite fully some of the downside of privatising public utilities like this. There are just a couple of basic questions that I want to address, and the first one is: Why are we conducting this debate today at all? It has already been pointed out that only six or eight months ago such a matter was not on the agenda at all, and now that it is on the agenda it has been resolved to a question of dollars and cents.
The Government has grasped at the possibility of selling ACTEW to solve another problem to which it is totally unrelated, in fact. We heard the Acting Chief Minister only a few minutes ago linking the superannuation funding problem with the sale of ACTEW. They are in no way related. The Government has two different problems that it should be dealing with, and we should not be allowing it to link them together, and we should not be allowing it to reduce it down to a question of how many dollars we end up with in our pockets.
As Mr Stanhope has just said, there are some very significant issues connected with this. One of them is the employment question. Another is the maintenance of standards, of supply and the like, so I think to some degree it is a spurious debate.
The second point that I wanted to deal with is: Why are we only considering the question of selling ACTEW under the terms outlined by the Government? I have to say that over three weeks ago I wrote to the Chief Minister and asked her what other options were considered and why were they rejected. I do not mean only the options that were in the scoping study. There were about seven options in there. The favoured one by the consultant was rejected by the Government in favour of another, but we have had no debate as to why all the other options that were put forward were discarded. I can conceive of one other option where the asset would be retained. It might still be used to help fund the superannuation shortfall, if that is what the Government wishes.
One of the problems at the moment is that the two voting shareholders are Ministers of the Government. Therefore there is immediately the question of ministerial accountability and responsibility. That imposes constraints, we are told, on the freedom of this entity to operate in a purely commercial market. Well, let us change that. Let us make it a pure,