Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (27 October) . . Page.. 2304 ..
MR KAINE (continuing):
arm's length statutory authority with a charter that allows it to get on with the job without ministerial involvement to the depth that there is at the moment. The Acting Chief Minister challenges the Opposition to produce an option. Well, I am producing one. Before we turn it into such a body we take some $200m out of it which the consultant says in the scoping study is there and available to be taken back by the Government, even if it is sold, or no matter what happens to it. So you have a pretty good start for a sinking fund to cover the superannuation. It is already going to start earning interest of a considerable sum. Interest on $200m would generate a pretty good income in a year. If the Government then adds to it the amounts of money that it projected in its budget, you are starting to make a pretty big hole in the superannuation liabilities. So there are other options, but the Government has not told us what they are. In fact, it has avoided telling us that it has considered any other option.
Before I endorse government action to sell off this asset under any terms, I want to know that the Government has looked at other options in terms of what it might do with ACTEW, and there are many that would need to be considered. I want to know what other options it has taken into account in dealing with its superannuation liability on the other hand. They are two different problems and I want to see what the government solutions are, other than flogging off ACTEW and applying all the money to this. As the Acting Chief Minister pointed out, it is still only going to cover about half the total liability. How are they going to solve the other half?
That raises another interesting question. Is the Government going to flog off the Canberra Hospital next month or the month after and raise the rest of the money? When I asked that question earlier it was more than in jest, because if you can flog off ACTEW you can just as easily flog off the hospital, take the money and apply it to some purpose like superannuation or some other financial problem that the Government might have. So, Mr Speaker, I am not convinced that the Government's course of action has in any way been justified by the Government, and I want to see its argument and its explanation for what it is doing.
The Acting Chief Minister talked about scaremongering. If anybody has done any of that it is the Government. They are the ones who are saying, "If we do not do it now we are in deep trouble". In other words, there is a sense of urgency about this which I believe is a manufactured sense of urgency, given the way the environment is out there, and it is not going to change significantly over the next few months. I think it is a manufactured degree of urgency. My basic question, that still remains in my mind, because the Government has not explained this, is: Do we need to do it and do we need to do it now? I have heard nothing today that convinces me on either of those points.
MR QUINLAN (4.48): As has already been said, clearly there is no justification for the sale of ACTEW other than to fund superannuation and to provide, along the way, about a $100m slush fund to balance a budget or two. There are two elements to this matter of public importance. One is the consequences of privatisation on the provision of effective, efficient and reliable services, and the second is the breach of faith by this Government. Firstly, I would like to address privatisation and the outfall.