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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (8 December) . . Page.. 3184 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

This Assembly voted only 10 days ago to establish a select committee to look specifically at the superannuation liability question and the efficacy of a one-off solution. The Assembly agreed that the committee should report by the first sitting day next year - that was the agreement that the Assembly came to - and that the Government should take no action in relation to the final ownership aspect of ACTEW until the Assembly has considered the Government's response to the committee's report. Yet here we are today being asked to debate the sale and franchising of ACTEW. An Assembly committee is looking at the issues which the Chief Minister has decided to link inextricably with the sale of ACTEW. We really should allow that process to go on.

This pre-empts the work of that committee. The bringing on of this debate today, to my mind, undermines and pre-empts the work of that committee and makes me wonder whether the Assembly has any commitment to the work that that committee will do. It makes me wonder whether Mr Osborne, a member of that committee, in agreeing to debate this motion today to fruition actually has any commitment to the work of that committee. On the one hand he pleads that the work of the superannuation committee is vital to him and on the other he goes ahead today and chooses to support a debate on this Bill. It is a committee in relation to which he has expressed such significant support and which he has indicated is of importance to him. I hope that Mr Osborne does have a commitment to that committee. I hope that he will take it seriously. I hope that he will value its outcomes and that he will not allow the debate today and the progressing of this Bill to finality to undercut and negate any work that that committee will do.

It does seem bizarre to me in the extreme that the Government has refused to allow Assembly consideration of this issue through its vote on a motion for the establishment of a select committee to investigate the significant implications of privatisation. It does seem bizarre to me that, in an environment where this Assembly has to decide on the sale of ACTEW, our single biggest privately owned institution, an institution that returns consistently significant dividends to the people of the ACT, an Assembly investigation of the implications of that issue is not warranted, is not needed. We do not even have to think about the implications of it, we do not have to think about the financial implications, the job implications, the environmental implications, the implications for sewerage, the implications for our water as such, the implications for our infrastructure, the implications for the dams.

We do not need to think about these things. We have to believe the Government. We have to trust that the Government actually has everybody's best interests at heart. We do not have to worry about whether a purchaser of ACTEW will come in and strip the assets. We do not even have to debate these things. We do not have to investigate them; we do not have to consider them. The only issue to be considered is whether we can pay our unfunded superannuation liability. We had an inquiry into that. The Government paid good money to a consultant, who told us that there were at least six options that it could see for meeting that issue. We are investigating that. We are actually inquiring into whether the options presented to us by Towers Perrin are sustainable. But we are not looking at whether the sale of ACTEW to the private sector, to a profit maker, has any implications for that range of issues for the people of the ACT. It is just a nonsense. This Bill should not be supported. It should not have been brought on today. It should be rejected.

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