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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (8 December) . . Page.. 3180 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

In June 1997, Mrs Carnell told the Assembly:

Selling ACTEW is not on the agenda of the Government.

Nor was selling ACTEW on her Government's agenda when she was quizzed about the issue during last February's election campaign. Privatisation was not on the Government's election agenda. The electorate did not have an opportunity to vote on the issue.

This Government went to the last election letting the people of the ACT believe or assume that, if elected, it had no intention to deal with or privatise ACTEW, that it was not something that it was considering. The people of the ACT had no reason to believe that if they voted for the Liberal Party they would, within a couple of months, be dealing with the very real prospect of ACTEW being sold from under them within the first year, within a number of months.

As recently as 20 July this year the sale was not on the Government's agenda. On that day, 20 July this year, the Chief Minister told an Estimates Committee hearing:

I am not aware of any plans to sell ACTEW.

Only five months ago the Chief Minister was repeating the mantra that she had been running for the last four years in writing and in the press:

I am not aware of any plans to sell ACTEW.

But she is aware now and we are all very aware now, just four months later, that the Government wants a fire sale.

What has caused this change of heart? The Government has two reasons, or so it says. First, it has the scoping study it commissioned into the future of ACTEW which, the Government argues, makes the case that ACTEW cannot survive in an increasingly competitive world and will rapidly become worthless. Secondly, the Territory has such an unfunded superannuation liability that it must be addressed immediately by selling our largest asset and paying it off at once.

On the first argument, ABN AMRO, the consultant which the Government relies on, is an international company that makes its profits from financing privatisations. The Government has, in questioning on this matter in the last few months, ruled out that company's further involvement in the ACTEW sale. Thus, it is legitimate for us to question the motives of ABN AMRO. The second argument goes to the superannuation debt. It is a very significant argument, and it is an argument that we need to concentrate on today, having regard to the fact that as recently as 10 days ago this Assembly established a select committee to look at the superannuation liability.

The Assembly did that as a result of a determination by this place just six weeks earlier, or thereabouts, not to proceed with an inquiry into any of the implications of the sale of ACTEW. So, we have a situation in which the Assembly was not prepared to countenance an Assembly inquiry into any of the implications for the people of the ACT

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