Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (27 October) . . Page.. 2306 ..
MR QUINLAN (continuing):
if the regulatory framework is anything like this, which is only fair, those elements will be taken into account in the pricing of our services in the future. Mr Humphries talked about superannuation costing $120m a year. What do you reckon the debt servicing cost is on $1.2 billion from the gnomes of Zurich? It is going to be pretty close, and with the prospect of those interest rates floating up because we are at a low point in the economic cycle.
What we have as the probable outcome is this Government, if it has its way, offsetting the superannuation liability, taking the pressure off government budgets; but we will pay for that. We will pay for that through the cost of our utility services, and we will pay for it forever because we will not own the asset any more. The entrepreneur will own it. Interest rates will go up. Every year, not just $120m in the peak year - Mr Humphries chose selectively, as this Government is wont to do - we will be paying the capital servicing costs of $1.2 billion. You can garnish that with the prospect of a private operator shifting prices within the market, the sharp pencil at the commercial end and the blunt pencil down on those people who are going to be most affected.
The examples that Mr Corbell gave of Adelaide result from true economic pricing. Uneconomic clients. There are all these wires connecting you, poor little pensioner. You have a meter. You are not using it. You are going to have to pay a heavier fixed charge to meet your cost. That is economic pricing in action. Do not think for a moment that just saying that we could have a price regulator and a severe pricing regulation regime is sufficient protection. It is not going to be. The economic pressure will be such that this entrepreneur is going to have the biggest business in town. He will have tremendous economic clout.
I do not fancy our chances and our prospects of being able to sell an enterprise for $1.2 billion to somebody who is going to expect a return on it and then say, "Oh, by the way, we will regulate the prices to look after the punter out there, the pensioner, and the ordinary family". This will not work. If you model on this, and if this is any good, why has it been changed? You will take into account the cost of providing the services. Included in those costs of providing services is the cost of the money, the cost of the investment. That is the way the private sector works. If, in fact, there is a ceiling on price, you will not sell the damn thing anyway. I just do not fancy our prospects of working under that.
We certainly do have a problem with superannuation. We will have to address that. There is within the ABN AMRO report a suggestion that some of the capital in ACTEW can be repatriated. We can look at that. But, overall, I do not think we will be taking any step forward by selling it. We will be taking a step backwards. To state the bleeding obvious, if you sell it, you no longer have any control over it. You have lost it.
The other part of this MPI relates to the breach of faith by Mrs Carnell and the Government in misleading the people of Canberra during the lead-up to the election. That just says that our local Liberals rank with their Federal counterparts. I can think of no greater insult than to say that they are no more honest than John Howard with his core