Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (8 December) . . Page.. 3253 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
basically is handing over to the private sector exemptions to laws of the ACT. We are certainly not happy with that and would want to take that out. It does seem rather strange to be handing over to a private sector organisation the right to be exempt from laws of the ACT.
I would like to outline again the sorts of concerns that have come up in the public meetings that I have been to. I want to make quite clear to members of this place the issues that people think need to be addressed and that have not been addressed. No Auditor-General's report has addressed them and none of the consultants reports have addressed them. The Australia Institute's report is highlighting them and raising them in a way that is, I believe, useful to the debate, although I still think there needs to be more work done on that.
Interestingly, the Australia Institute report does question the efficacy of the accounting of the Government in their estimates about what we would actually be making. I think there are some very interesting comments made in this report about the Government's or the consultants' estimation of what will be lost and gained by the sale of ACTEW. The issues that continually have come up are the long-term consequences of the privatisation of essential services such as power, water and sewerage. That is where the quality of life in the long term will be affected. We must take onto the other side of the debate the same challenge, which is whether we can guarantee that future generations of the ACT will benefit from whichever position we take on this, and that has not been addressed by the Government.
Can government regulation control the activity of a private company in the long term to ensure best practice management of these essential services? With increasing pressure on the budget, can we have confidence that government will adequately fund community service obligations, or even know how to do it? Will the tension between the profit motive of the private sector and the responsibilities of government lead to a diminution of standards? How does the principle of energy conservation and protection of the environment fit into a mission statement of a private company whose main goal is always profit? Can we have confidence under this model that there will be a concerted effort to fund research and development into alternative energy and environmental management?
How will the interests of a local community be served by having their essential services controlled by a private company not based in the region, and possibly not in the country? What will be the impact on local jobs? Why do we want to apply the market model to water and sewerage when it is a natural monopoly? Will the sale of an asset actually deliver long-term economic gains to the region? These questions have to be answered. They have to be given a good, strong, rigorous analysis. That has not happened. We need more time to do it.
I ask members to support an adjournment of this debate, and to certainly not support coming back in January, even though I am pre-empting a debate I suppose.