Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (8 December) . . Page.. 3203 ..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
But we have had an organisation like the Industry Commission come out and say, "It's not the ownership model that matters; it's how you manage it". Mr Speaker, that is what the Labor Party has been arguing all along: It is how you manage ACTEW, not who owns it.
Having dismissed that, Mr Speaker, let us look at the reasons why it is important to retain an organisation like ACTEW in public ownership. I come here to the point Mr Kaine made earlier in the debate about the regulatory structure. Nowhere in the world has there been developed a regulatory structure which will achieve what the Chief Minister is proposing to achieve with her structure. There is no model anywhere in the world that achieves what she wants to achieve. Yet again we are hearing the Government say, "Trust me, I'll get it right. Let me sell it. I'll get it right". That is what Jeff Kennett said in Victoria, Mr Speaker. He said that he would have the world's best practice regulatory regime and it did not happen. It did not happen, Mr Speaker.
There have been lots of articles written about the problems with privatisation, corporatisation and franchising of electricity and water operations. I will just put a couple of questions on the table. The first is: Why are we transferring a public monopoly to a private monopoly when we are talking about the electricity distribution network? Why are we shifting a public monopoly, where there are the controls and the accountability mechanisms of a parliament and a range of other devices to fix any potential problems, to a private operator? Why are we doing that, Mr Speaker? I am yet to see an argument about why it is a good idea to shift a public monopoly into a private monopoly. The Government has not answered that question.
Mr Speaker, a range of other issues have been raised in relation to the privatisation and corporatisation of water and electricity. I am sure that members are aware of all that detail, so I will not go into it at this stage. But I do want to address some points made by Mr Stefaniak in his contribution to the debate. Mr Stefaniak said that the benefits of competition and privatisation of electricity operations in Victoria had resulted in, I think he said, a 4 per cent reduction over a period of years in electricity prices for domestic customers.
Ms Carnell: Nine per cent.
MR CORBELL: Nine per cent. There we go; 9 per cent for domestic customers. Mr Speaker, if that is the case, if there has been a 9 per cent reduction, as the Chief Minister says, in prices to domestic electricity users, is it really a consequence of privatisation and greater competition? Mr Speaker, the answer is no, because in Victoria, as far as I am aware, from 1995 to the present date there has been a 4 per cent reduction in electricity prices and it has been legislated, it has been a requirement of the Victorian Parliament. It has not been as a consequence of privatisation or greater competition or efficiency in the electricity market.
Mr Speaker, they are not to do with market pressures. They are not to do with
the discipline of the market. They are not to do with any of those wonderful
things which those opposite argue are the great things to do with
privatisation. Instead, they are the action of a parliament that has said, "We
want to reduce electricity prices". You do not