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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (8 December) . . Page.. 3256 ..

MR WOOD (continuing):

the most notable of which, I suppose, is the dam that you see out there now. We have not had persistent bypasses, that is, overflowing of the sewerage treatment works, in recent times because this Assembly was able to ensure that ACTEW was responsive to what the community needed, not just the Canberra community but also the community downstream.

Let me go to the other end of the extreme about responsiveness. Like most members, I expect, I get calls from time to time from people who say, "The streetlights are out in my street", or, "There is one light gone and I've been ringing ACTEW and they haven't come yet". I have to say, and I am grateful for it, Minister, that on any occasion I have rung up about streetlights they have invariably been fixed very rapidly. That is small-scale stuff, you might say, but it is indicative of what we want in terms of the responsiveness that I have been talking about. Do you think we will get that if I cannot make those phone calls or other members cannot make those phone calls in the future? There are other times, of course, when I make approaches concerning ACTEW matters and they are dealt with.

I believe there has been a campaign of fear to sell ACTEW; fear that if we do not we are going to go down the tube and it will be worth nothing in the future. There has been unremitting propaganda about it. From first to last it has been a deception. We were told over and over again before the last election, going back quite some time, "We don't plan to sell ACTEW; we are not going to sell it". But what happened in the end? Suddenly, there it is, as we suspected all along. Given that history, I do not give any credibility to the propaganda that has been put forward. The Government will come up with anything it wants in order to justify its sale. The deception continues.

Mr Humphries ,in his speech, said that he, with his colleagues, was the custodian of the Territory's assets. I believe that we all, in this Assembly, ultimately are the custodians. I hope that is what we are. I hope that we are not the disposers of the Territory assets, or the despoilers of them. I believe that if we support open and accountable government we cannot support this legislation. Among other things, typical of the way things have been developed, the process is not a good process. This Bill effectively takes all decisions about ACTEW's future out of the scrutiny of the Assembly and puts it into the hands of the Executive. It is typical of the approach of this Government to rule by Executive first rather than democratic scrutiny. With the use of the words "commercial-in-confidence", the Bill effectively allows this Government to sell off the major asset with no limits to what they may do, and aren't they keen to sell? I wonder what potential buyers are thinking. Sellers should not appear too keen, should they, in the marketplace? That is the rule. But every buyer out there would know that this Government is keen to sell.

Mr Berry: At any price.

MR WOOD: At any price. We will have to see, will we not? The Bill provides power for the Minister to declare ACTEW assets as public assets. In the presentation speech the Minister tells us that these assets will be the dams and water and sewerage treatment plants, but, as I read the Bill, clause 4 is entirely discretionary and the Minister is

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