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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (29 October) . . Page.. 2432 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

I thank members. In light of that evidence, and in light of the urgency conveyed by those reports, the urgency to deal with this issue, we ask the Assembly to move to make a decision in the framework of the next two months.

What this Assembly committee proposal amounts to is an opportunity for some members to disrupt a legitimate process of public debate on the pretext of having an inquiry. On the other hand, it also represents a serious threat to the capacity of the community to receive a reasonable return on that sale if it has to take place. We have had the South Australian Government announcing, just in the last few weeks, its intention to sell its power utilities. It is widely expected that after the March election in New South Wales the New South Wales Government will also move towards privatising its power utilities. If the ACT puts ACTEW into the marketplace after those other sales have begun to proceed, the value of ACTEW will obviously and significantly be diminished. There is no capacity to argue against that fact. If that is the case we do our community a disservice by delaying.

Mr Kaine asked whether there was this link between the superannuation problem and the declining value of ACTEW. I would say to him that the two arguments are there. They are certainly self-supporting in this context, but if we did not have the problem with superannuation I would unreservedly say that it would still be responsible and necessary for the Government to urge the sale of ACTEW. That would still be a responsible course of action. This evidence, in my view, is quite compelling. Members opposite in this debate have attacked that evidence very consistently. They attacked the Fay Richwhite report by making all sorts of accusations about Fay Richwhite being attacked in New Zealand for being unethical. Incidentally, those claims were entirely debunked. Even before the scoping study by ABN AMRO was placed on the table they said that the document should be shredded. The Labor Party has no interest in objectively considering these matters. They have no interest whatsoever in doing that, and, Mr Speaker, I resent giving them an opportunity - - -

Mr Corbell: That is your assumption, Gary, not ours.

Mr Berry: That is why you have a proportional representation on the committee, Gary.

Mr Moore: No, it is what you have demonstrated.

MR HUMPHRIES: You have demonstrated that already. Can you explain the basis of saying the document should be shredded even before it appeared in the public eye? Can you explain that, Mr Corbell? No, you cannot. Mr Speaker, I do not pretend for one instant that the sale of ACTEW is a popular decision. I do not pretend it is not a decision which is easily misrepresented and easily characterised as selling off the family silver. It gives me no pleasure to be associated with a decision of this kind for that reason, but I believe we have to proceed to consider this seriously because I believe this is an important decision, a landmark decision, for the ACT community. I believe that if we fail to act in this way we place at risk our capacity to deliver essential services to this community, because our capacity to do so is compromised by the debt that will hang over this community's head in the future. For that reason I say that we should not adopt the policy of having this inquiry.

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