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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (8 December) . . Page.. 3255 ..

MR QUINLAN (continuing):

When you read those two pages together, what do you get? The Auditor-General is saying do not sell ACTEW; it makes money. Sell the hospital. Sell the roads. Sell public housing. Sell the parks. You have got to be kidding.

The last contribution by the Chief Minister to this debate was appalling. It was obviously a contrivance. It was the grossest of insults to members of this place who have not had the chance to read this report, to absorb it and to put this in perspective. She sought leave to speak again in the debate in order to try to influence those members who are still considering today's question. I suggest that we all take time to examine this properly. When we start talking about selling public hospitals, schools and roads, all our alarm bells should be ringing.

MR WOOD (5.20): Mr Speaker, when I was a school leaver aged 16, quite some years ago, my first job was in the remnants of a privately owned electricity authority. My memory is not the best, going back that far - - -

Mr Humphries: It must be 50 years, at least.

MR WOOD: It is getting on to that, Mr Humphries. I did not stay long, but there was very little culture of service and the business was pretty apathetic towards consumers. I do not think I would have used those words in those days but those are the two memories I have of those times. Those remnants of the private company were about to be incorporated into a government system and all the people in the company were very keen for that to happen. All the workers were very keen for that to happen because they expected a much better workplace, a much more constructive place, focused on what it was supposed to be doing. I do not raise that as any more than an interesting point, except, of course, that those were the days long before the words "economic rationalism", and all that they carry, came into our vocabulary. In today's standards, businesses are run with harsh, ruthless efficiency, or so-called efficiency.

I want to make a couple of comments on this from the perspective of a member of this Assembly as well as a consumer. I believe that ACTEW has accepted its community responsibilities and its environmental obligations, perhaps not always to the extent that it claims. Nevertheless, ACTEW is responsive to the community and has been increasingly so since self-government came to the Territory. It is a part of ACTEW's culture of service. If ACTEW is tardy, as I think it has been from time to time, this Assembly can prompt it. This Assembly can have a role in the way ACTEW delivers some of the most vital services in our community. This responsiveness, this ability to respond, I believe, is of enormous importance. I do not believe that a privatised company would be so inclined, even noting what is in the regulatory regime that we have been looking at.

Let me give an example of how we need an Assembly to ensure that ACTEW can be responsive. When I was Minister for the Environment, quite some years ago now, we had a frequent series of bypasses at the Lower Molonglo Treatment Works, and they seemed to persist, no matter what stories the Minister for Urban Services and I, as Environment Minister, were being given. I remain of the view, even today, that we were not being told everything about what was happening, but we were able to require an environmental audit, a very comprehensive one. Arising from that a number of measures were taken,

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