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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (29 October) . . Page.. 2428 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

They had to deal with the consequences after the decision on privatisation had been made. That is not the course of action we should adopt today. Instead, we should have the opportunity to assess whether or not regulatory frameworks can be effective as well as whether or not it is appropriate in the first place to sell a public utility. We must address those issues side by side. We must address them before a decision has been made. Labor members, as much as any other member in this place, need to be informed of the consequences of the regulatory framework being proposed by the Government. That is a sensible process that should be considered through an Assembly inquiry.

Mr Speaker, at the end of the day it is appropriate that the decision about the sale of ACTEW be taken on the floor of this place. That is why the Labor Party moved amendments to the Territory Owned Corporations Act to require such a decision to come to this place. But it must be a considered decision, it must be a sensible decision, and it must be a decision based on all of the evidence available. We know that when we rely on getting information from Ministers or from the Government directly in this place it can be a somewhat tortuous process, but Assembly committees have the power and the ability to get that information in a more considered and effective way.

We should not make any mistake that this can be a quick process. It must be a considered process, and no decision should be taken on the sale of one of our most important utilities until that process has been completed. For that reason Labor supports the timeline proposed by Ms Tucker, and it supports the terms of reference. They are sensible and they allow for a considered approach in a sensible way through one of the greatest strengths of this Assembly, which is its committee process.

MR HUMPHRIES (Acting Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (11.51): Mr Corbell says that the Assembly's committees are a strong part of the Assembly's work and that Assembly committee consideration is one of the strongest parts of the Assembly's consideration process. I would generally agree with that statement, but there is a case, a setting, where I do not believe that that is true and where, in the past, in my experience, the Assembly's committees have worked least well. That is where the members of the Assembly who have engaged in debate about a particular issue that then gets translated into a committee inquiry have already strongly stated a precommitted position on that issue.

Mr Berry: Tell me the exception to that.

MR HUMPHRIES: I think about the hospital beds inquiry or an inquiry into the private hospital that we had a couple of years ago. There were cases where parties in this place had very strongly stated positions and the Assembly decided, for right or wrong, to refer the issue to an inquiry and, surprise, surprise, the inquiry reported with members not shifting their position at all from their prestated views. In those settings, Mr Speaker, the Assembly's committees are no more than an extension of the campaigns of the parties in this place on a particular issue and their work is least valuable to the Assembly and to the community. Mr Speaker, I think that is the case here.

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