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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 9 Hansard (19 November) . . Page.. 2691 ..

MS CARNELL (continuing):

I was actually going through risk. Mr Speaker, if those opposite think that ACTEW borrowing a billion dollars so that they can buy another power company or a distributor and the deals that are being done, say, between Delta and ACTEW have no risk involved, I think it shows quite categorically why we cannot trust those opposite with the Treasury. It shows what would happen if we did. We would end up with significant borrowings for the ACT Government.

Mr Quinlan: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did not in any way suggest that ACTEW would go out and buy another business.

MS CARNELL: Mr Speaker, why did he talk about Integral Energy if he was not talking about that?

Mr Quinlan: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: In my question I cited the fact that the bank was prepared to back this purchase because of the monopoly position of the network business and its security - not that ACTEW had to buy anything, but it was a demonstration that the network business was a solid risk-free business.

MR SPEAKER: I take your point, except - - -

MS CARNELL: Mr Speaker, it is not a point of order.

MR SPEAKER: I understand what you are saying, but I must uphold what the Chief Minister is doing. She is simply making the point that, whether the bank is willing to lend money or not, there is still a risk involved.

MS CARNELL: Mr Speaker, can I finish by saying that any bank will lend a government corporation money. Guess why? Because the taxpayer underwrites it. It is not about whether the business is a good business. It is not about the risk, Mr Speaker. I have to say that ACTEW could go out and borrow a billion dollars tomorrow too - no problems - because, at the end of the day, whatever happens to ACTEW is underwritten by the Government and the ACT taxpayer, and at this stage we actually have more assets than a billion dollars. So there would be absolutely no problems. These are not stand-alone companies. They are underwritten by the taxpayer. That is why any bank will lend into that market. I cannot understand why Mr Quinlan, who should understand these things, would ask a question that so definitely illustrates why ACTEW, in a market of these sizes of competitors, simply cannot compete unless we go down the path that Mr Quinlan is suggesting; that is, allow ACTEW to expand significantly with loans underwritten by the taxpayer.

MR QUINLAN: The question was not about expanding; it was about keeping. My supplementary question, Mr Speaker, is this: Can the Chief Minister advise this Assembly what she knows of the detail of the deal that has been done between ACTEW and Delta Electricity? I heard numbers like 40 per cent lower prices. I heard five-year contracts. It looks like they are doing all right in the market as they are.

MS CARNELL: I do not personally - and I do not think Mr Humphries, as the other shareholder - have anything to do with commercial negotiations on contracts between ACTEW and - - -

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