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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (29 October) . . Page.. 2427 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

did not make a decision today to pursue a course of action which required an Assembly committee investigation of the potential sale of ACTEW. If we do not go down that path, what will we be saying about all the statements we have said previously about the strength of this Assembly's committee process? What will we be saying about the need for an open and public debate on this question, perhaps the most important issue since self-government?

Both sides of this house, indeed, all members in this house, have agreed that the committee system in this place is one of the Assembly's great strengths, and it is one of the most important elements in connecting what happens on the floor of this chamber with the community. It allows for that formal interaction between members of the community and members of the Assembly prior to having debates here in this chamber. If we do not pursue the course of an Assembly inquiry we not only do ourselves a great injustice in not having the opportunity to fully assess these issues; we also do the community a great injustice because they want that opportunity, too. So, for that reason, Mr Speaker, on that very important matter of principle, the notion of an Assembly investigation into the sale of ACTEW should be supported.

Mr Speaker, there are a range of other issues that should be addressed. Ms Tucker has outlined them in her proposed terms of reference. All of those issues are issues which the Labor Party has concerns about and which we want addressed. I want to address particularly, Mr Speaker, the concern raised that there is not much point in having a Labor member on the committee or a Greens member on the committee because these two parties have already made up their minds on the issue.

The position of the Labor Party is one born of experience, one born of the views of the people we are elected to represent, and one born of extensive consideration and assessment of the social issues that arise as a result of privatisation. The philosophical position of the Labor Party is that you measure an organisation's or an individual's worth on not just economic terms but on social terms, on environmental terms, and on a range of other important equity considerations.

It would be fair to say also, Mr Speaker, that even if you did not accept that argument you must accept the argument that this Assembly deserves to know whether or not the Government's proposed regulatory framework which they are proposing as part of the sale process would be adequate. We do not know whether it would be. We have to take on faith at the moment the Government's comments that the regulatory process will be adequate. Even if a majority of members in this place do decide that the sale of ACTEW is the most appropriate course of action, we must be confident that the regulatory process is effective. That is why, quite sensibly, that particular point is in the terms of reference.

The experience in other jurisdictions has been that all governments promise tough, regulatory frameworks when proposing the sale of public utilities. All governments propose that. Jeff Kennett stood up in Victoria and said, "We will have the toughest regulatory framework in Australia". Dean Brown stood up in South Australia and said, "We will have the toughest regulatory framework in Australia". As far as I am aware that comment was not able to be tested in those parliaments prior to a decision being made.

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