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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (27 October) . . Page.. 2308 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

I could go on with this but I want to speak briefly. I will have the opportunity on Thursday when we talk to the issue of a select committee to look at these concerns. The point I want to make really clearly today is that we need to have this discussion, and it needs to be thoughtful and it needs to be careful. We have not had that in this place, and the community has not had the benefit of it. If we do not get the opportunity to do that then I believe that this Government, and particularly any members of this Assembly who support this Government in selling ACTEW without having had the benefit of this discussion, will lose credibility in the eyes of the ACT community.

It is not much that we are asking at this point. There is a discussion that needs to be had. It is clearly a worry if we move ahead with haste now. It is clearly a worry that we are hearing from the Government this ridiculous argument that we have to do it now. It says that we have to do it now or we are going to lose $500m, I think it was. Those figures in the press release were quite skewed. We were seeing, once again, the spin doctors at work rather than a thoughtful argument. It is very disrespectful to the ACT community and to members of this Assembly to have this sort of argument presented.

MR TEMPORARY DEPUTY SPEAKER: The debate will conclude at 5.04 pm.

MR SMYTH (Minister for Urban Services) (5.01): Well, Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, I will be brief. The MPI addresses two issues, namely, the consequences of privatisation and the Government's position on ACTEW at the last election. In relation to the first, based on the advice of independent experts and the Government's consideration of the issue, it would be obvious to any fair-minded observer that the Government's proposed sale and concession of ACTEW and the enhanced regulatory framework for the utilities which the Government is developing in consultation with the community, including bodies such as ACTCOSS, will result in an improved outcome for the ACT community. These improvements will ensure the effective, efficient and reliable provision of electricity, water and sewerage services. In terms of this aspect of Mr Corbell's MPI, the Government's proposed approach is arguably the only way to ensure the provision of effective and efficient services.

In relation to ACTEW, the Government's commitment during the election was to protect the value of the asset, an asset that independent analysis now shows is worth more than $1 billion. What is more, the Government is not locked into an ideological position on ACTEW, unlike those on the other side. We made no decision to sell any part of ACTEW until the outcomes of the rigorous investigations into the risks that ACTEW faced, as well as the pros and cons of the numerous options that were available to the Government, had been considered. Both these studies were concluded after the election. The studies were carried out by experts in their fields. The first of these by Fay Richwhite stated that, as a sole shareholder in the ACTEW business, the ACT Government is faced with a substantial dilemma in relation to the growth options available to ACTEW. While the pursuit of these growth options is the key to the enhancement of ACTEW's long-term commercial value, the pursuit of these growth options carries the risk of investment failure to varying degrees.

MR TEMPORARY DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The time for the discussion has now expired.

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