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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (8 December) . . Page.. 3208 ..

MS CARNELL: Mr Speaker, that is exactly what the report says. It lays out quite simply the approach they have taken. What you do is take $400m out of ACTEW. Remember that those opposite last year said that if we took $100m out of ACTEW we would totally destroy the company as we knew it. The then Leader of the ALP said:

... the money from ACTEW will undermine ACTEW as a corporation and its ability to do business.

We now know we can take $400m out and pay $25m a year out of the dividend. Unfortunately, Mr Speaker, we would also have to pay $100m a year, on top of the $25m, to fund the accruing liability. Double rates - that is what those opposite want to do. They want to put up taxes by $100m a year. I think that says it all to the crossbenchers with regard to the arguments that those opposite have been running on ACTEW.

ACTEW - Sale

MR QUINLAN: Mr Speaker, my question to the Chief Minister relates to ACTEW. In the eventuality of a sale of ACTEW, what will be the fate of the organisation's buildings - head office and depots - given the high probability that they will be superfluous to the operation of a purchaser from outside town and in light of the experience in the UK, where many utilities were bought for the purposes of asset stripping more than for operation?

MS CARNELL: Mr Speaker, the basis of the sale that I hope we will be able to enter into at some stage, hopefully sooner rather than later, will be to ensure that the successful bidder sets up its operations in Canberra. In fact, the basis of the arrangements will be that all staff will move over to the new operator. Already in the ABN AMRO report there is an indication of at least 12 months in job security. As I have said before, I think that can be negotiated up in many circumstances.

Mr Speaker, we will be looking at adding value to Canberra industry, requiring the successful bidder to set up new businesses here in Canberra so that we can have new jobs and end up with growth. On that basis, a new operator will not be contractually able to asset strip, as we have spoken about, and of course will need many of the current assets that ACTEW has.

MR QUINLAN: I ask a supplementary question. Can the Chief Minister confirm on record that there have been no discussions at any level on propositions for leaseback of ACT assets should they be redundant after sale?

MS CARNELL: Mr Speaker, how could I answer a question on discussions at any level? Sorry, I cannot answer that question. I do not know what everyone in the whole organisation talks about.

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