Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (29 October) . . Page.. 2423 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
The Government's urgent desire to sell ACTEW to pay off our superannuation liability also needs to be seriously examined. The Assembly needs to consider whether a huge transfer of funds into the superannuation debt is the best use of that money or whether the slow and steady repayment of that debt, which would allow ACTEW to stay in government hands, would be preferable from a public interest perspective. In strict financial terms, the Government may be able to save some money in the future by paying off all our superannuation debt now, but the Assembly has to be clear about what we will be losing in other respects by selling ACTEW.
To do this whole issue justice, it will be necessary to spend a significant amount of time on this inquiry. There is just not enough time between now and December to undertake this type of inquiry, given the remaining sitting periods and other committee business occurring. Time also needs to be allowed for the various community groups and other interest groups to get together their own submissions. Given that it will be difficult to undertake this inquiry over the Christmas break, there is really no choice but to extend this inquiry significantly into the new year. While this will obviously put back the Government's timetable for privatisation, I think the issue is too important to rush through now, and I believe the community generally is of that view. If members of this parliament choose to rush this sale through, I think the community will remember that at the next election. It will show a great disrespect for the community as well as a lack of understanding of the importance of this issue.
MR KAINE (11.30): I must confess to being in somewhat of a quandary over Ms Tucker's motion. I understand what has motivated it, and I have the same concerns, I suspect, about the Government's proposal that Ms Tucker has. I think there is too much that we do not know about the consequences of simply selling off ACTEW. My decision as to how to vote on this motion when the vote comes shortly will depend on the Government convincing me that it intends to provide enough information between now and the time that a sale motion is discussed in this place to allow me to fully understand the consequences of what the Government is proposing. I am not too sure that the Government, itself, fully understands all of the ramifications of its proposal, so it is a very serious matter.
I commend Ms Tucker for attempting to establish a methodology whereby the issues can be debated fully and so that we can more fully understand what the Government is proposing, why it is proposing it and what the consequences are. If the Government can come up with an alternative proposal that can fully satisfy me in the timescale that they want to achieve, then I am prepared to listen to that.
The sad fact at the moment is that the Government has made no proposal as to how we might be informed. My understanding is that the Chief Minister has merely determined that between now and the last sitting date of this calendar year she expects us to agree with her proposal for a sale. I do not think we know enough about the matter to be able to do that in the timescale that she is proposing, certainly not without a great deal more information than we currently have available to us.