Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (26 November) . . Page.. 3132 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
Mr Speaker, I was absolutely astounded to read in the newspaper that Mr Rugendyke is of the view that my committee would not have looked at super. "It did not even mention super", Mr Rugendyke said. If Mr Rugendyke had read my terms of reference, he would have realised that the impacts of the sale of ACTEW on the ACT budget would include superannuation. I will support this inquiry, though, because it is obviously the best we will get.
Obviously, Mr Osborne, Mr Rugendyke and the Liberals are playing their games again, at the expense of credible parliamentary processes. We have a proposal from government to sell a major asset and we are denied the right to have a proper process to assess the costs and benefits of the proposal. We see, instead, the Chief Minister and Mr Osborne manipulating the discussion in order to avoid this scrutiny. We see Mr Osborne putting the onus onto Labor to convince him that there are other ways to deal with the super liability; but he does not put the onus onto the Government to prove that the claimed benefits from selling ACTEW outweigh the costs.
It is well played, in a way, if you are into playing games. Unfortunately, this is not a game; it is a very serious decision to be made by elected representatives, and it is in everyone's interests to get it right. The Chief Minister and the Government are determined that they are right, that ACTEW must be sold. As I asked in the abortion debate: Why are the Government and its supporters so afraid of careful scrutiny of their proposals?
The Government's proposals to sell the water pipes, for example, and franchise the water and sewerage treatment operations for 50 years would be a first in Australia. No other government has thought that this is a good approach. It seems perfectly reasonable to look at such a proposal in detail. I know that the stated reason for not having an inquiry is that it would delay proceedings. That will happen anyway with this inquiry, if it gets up. Also, of course, it is a weak argument that a few months would be so critical to the sale price.
Anyway, we are told by the Government that we must get in quickly, before New South Wales, because it is sure to decide to sell its utilities after the election. I do not know that we should be so sure of that, if we look at what happened in Tasmania. The election is in March anyway, and I do not think anyone is suggesting that a sale would occur in a week or two after that. It has been quite interesting watching people, including the Chief Minister, scurrying around this chamber over the last hour, desperately trying to remove anything from the terms of reference of this committee inquiry which actually might bring scrutiny to the broader issues of the sale of ACTEW.
Even if there is a financial risk in delaying the sale, there is also a very serious and worrying risk that selling ACTEW may actually be a bad idea; that it will not serve the long-term financial, social and environmental interests of the ACT; that the three members in this place who will be critical in making the decision about whether or not to sell ACTEW do not understand the issues and will not now, if the terms of reference of this inquiry are limited to the way I understand it is going to happen. There is a very serious risk that the community has not had enough time to have input; that experts in the