Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (29 October) . . Page.. 2439 ..
MR STANHOPE: Well, I fear that is where the position put by the Acting Chief Minister, supported by interjections by Mr Moore, leaves us. It actually makes me question the value of a single inquiry that the Assembly undertakes. Each of us does have views on a whole range of issues that we take into inquiries, but we go into them with a preparedness to open our minds.
I come back to my opening point, and I think it has not been reinforced significantly in the debate to date, that to not support an inquiry into this issue disempowers and disenfranchises the people of Canberra. It denies them the opportunity to participate in a full way in the debate on this issue, and it denies us, the members of this Assembly, access to all that expert opinion - opinions such as that of Professor Bob Douglas, if I might dare to say - about issues relating to the privatisation of publicly-owned assets.
MR SMYTH (Minister for Urban Services) (12.33): Mr Speaker, the Liberal Party went to the last election with a promise that we would protect the value of the asset. We have had advice from two consultancies. The first, the Fay Richwhite report, said that there were two things you could do. One was that you could put your head in the sand and ignore what was going to happen. The other was to look at options which included selling ACTEW. The ABN AMRO report put forward options about how it could be sold, and again just reinforces the point that says the best way to protect the value of the asset is to sell it.
The inescapable fact here is that the electricity market in Australia will change at the end of this year when the new national electricity market commences. It cannot be taken in isolation because the projections are that the market will change; that the current 28 distributors that the market has will reduce in number. For instance, Mr Quinlan, how are you going to ensure that ACTEW is one of the survivors in the new market? How many hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers' money are you willing to pour into ACTEW and willing to risk in the hope that ACTEW might survive in the new market of distributors?
Mr Quinlan: Do you know how much of the business is actually at risk? Do you know how much of it is actually at risk to the market?
MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, the new market will change this equation for ever.
MR SPEAKER: Order! You were all heard in silence.
Mr Quinlan: He is supposed to address his question through you.
MR SPEAKER: He is.
MR SMYTH: What the Opposition is asking us is that we stand by and play our fiddles, like Nero, while the whole market changes. They are willing to fiddle while the market changes forever. The argument has been put that the superannuation is independent of the question of the sale of ACTEW and that successive generations of Canberrans have built up the asset that we now have as ACTEW. Surely, then, these same successive generations have also contributed to the building up of that unfunded liability that is the