Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (8 December) . . Page.. 3186 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
Mr Speaker, I was not elected to this place to pass on the difficult decisions of today to the citizens of tomorrow. I was not elected to this place to avoid my responsibilities. Because I am in government, I have a special responsibility, a responsibility to directly account to the people of the ACT for the expenditure of public moneys and the management of public assets. Mr Speaker, each of us elected to this place has, arguably, the same responsibility to some degree or other. Each of us has responsibility to maximise the use of Territory assets and to protect the value of Territory assets.
Mr Speaker, it is the contention of the Government that if we do not proceed with the sale of ACTEW today or in the very near future we will be eroding that asset seriously. I do not expect members to believe my bald assertion of that fact. I know that members opposite do not believe it and that some members of the crossbench do not believe it. I do not ask them to indulge me and give me that credibility. But, Mr Speaker, I do ask them to accept the weight of evidence which is now before the Assembly.
A succession of reports commissioned by authorities well qualified in the area - indeed, some would say pre-eminent in their fields of expertise - have said in unequivocal terms to the public of the ACT that failure to sell this asset now is a mistake. Mr Speaker, that independent advice to the Government makes it obvious to any fair-minded observer that the proposed sale of the electricity arm of ACTEW and the concession on the water and sewerage arm of ACTEW are not predicated on meeting some objective beyond what is stated in those reports. They are predicated on the desire to make sure that the value of those assets is retained.
Mr Speaker, the point that I think needs to be made in this debate today very clearly is that we always face alternatives, we face choices, in these circumstances. The Government has put on the table, as a result of a great deal of work and a great deal of public expenditure to produce that work, I might point out, its proposed response to a looming crisis. It has put on the table its views about how to deal with a problem of absolutely enormous proportions. I am referring to the unfunded superannuation liability of the Territory. We have placed our views about how that should be dealt with on the table. We have said that it is reasonable to sell an asset to meet a liability. It is very simple. It is the sort of decision that other people might make in similar circumstances on a much smaller scale in their own daily lives. So, Mr Speaker, that is our position.
But the issue facing the Assembly today is not just how adequate the Government's solution to this problem is; it is also how adequate the alternative solutions might be and, indeed, how lacking we are in regard to alternative solutions to this problem. The Opposition has run a campaign over the last three or four months particularly of opposition to the sale of ACTEW and they have pulled every emotional string at their disposal. What they have not done well is face up to the question of where the dollars actually are coming from to meet this liability. They have not done that well. In fact, Mr Speaker, I would argue that they have not done that at all. They have been asked again and again to put on the table their solution to the problem of funding the Territory's unfunded superannuation liability and they have failed on each occasion to produce those alternatives or that alternative.