Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (29 October) . . Page.. 2463 ..
MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, I am saying that I have a different frame of mind from Ms Tucker. I do not believe that it is open to governments to have every conceivable piece of possibly relevant information at their fingertips before they make a decision. I think I can say after sitting in this place with Ms Tucker for the last four years that she would probably say that she did want every relevant piece of information before her before making a decision. I would like to be able to be in that position, but I cannot put myself in that position, nor can any government in that setting.
Mr Speaker, I think we have obtained as much information on this subject as any government in Australia which has previously undertaken a task of privatisation. In fact, I would be fairly certain that we have been more comprehensive about this than any other government that has gone down this path before. I am open to being contradicted, but I do not think that I will be. Yes, I think that it would be nice, it would be valuable, it would be of interest and value to the community, to the Assembly and to the Government, to have further work done on things like environmental impact, social impact and budgetary impact, but I know of two areas where the impact is going to be extremely great if we make the wrong decision.
One is on the future operating viability of ACTEW. If we do not act to protect that asset, we run the risk that the dividend will decline sharply in the coming few years and the value of that asset to the people of Canberra will diminish. The second thing is that I know that the capacity to provide a sum of money to deal with our superannuation problem is adversely affected by a failure to make the right decision. That is why I believe that we need to use that information to make this decision, not every other piece of information which may or may not be relevant.
MR CORBELL: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Acting Chief Minister. Can the Acting Chief Minister confirm that senior executive officers in the Chief Minister's Department were required to attend a seminar last Friday afternoon on the privatisation of ACTEW? Can the Acting Chief Minister tell the Assembly who conducted the seminar and, if possible, how much it cost to run, which staff were required to attend and why? Further, Minister, were staff on paid time and for how long did the seminar go last Friday afternoon?
MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Corbell will hardly be surprised to hear me say that I will take that question on notice.
MR CORBELL: I have a supplementary question, Mr Speaker. I appreciate that the Acting Chief Minister would not be across everything that is going on in the Chief Minister's Department; in fact, he does not seem to be across much at all. My supplementary question is: Is it not true, Acting Chief Minister, that requiring public servants to attend this exercise on privatisation sends a very clear signal that the Government is not interested in objective advice provided without fear or favour, but indicates to all senior executives that the Government is determined to make sure that nothing gets in the way of its privatisation agenda? Chief Minister, is this not just a politicisation of the Public Service to suit the Government's agenda?