Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (8 December) . . Page.. 3257 ..
MR WOOD (continuing):
not obliged to make these or any other ACTEW assets public assets. If it is the intention of the Government that these items should remain public assets, the Bill ought to state which of the items will remain public assets rather than leaving it, as it appears to me, entirely to the discretion of the Minister.
Clause 5 provides that the Minister can, by means of a declaration, transfer any existing ACTEW assets to any other person without even requiring proper transfer contracts or appropriate documentation. That is not a desirable way to go. The Minister can also declare assets, rights, obligations, and even liabilities, without any scrutiny by the Assembly. The Minister, in the end, can give away assets on whatever terms he or she likes.
The transfer of staff provision has flaws. Although clauses 8 to 12 provide guarantees, they are nevertheless subject to ministerial discretion. A current employee who is declared a transferred worker will enjoy the benefits of clauses 8 to 12, but there is absolute discretion given to the Minister as to which, if any, employees he or she decides to transfer, and those not transferred have no guarantee regarding their future conditions. In addition, there are no guarantees to staff as to what will occur after this brave new-world transfer to the new owners. I note that superannuation and workers compensation aspects are not dealt with in these provisions. They should, surely, be specifically addressed.
I believe that the approach adopted by the Carnell Government is radically different from the approach to asset sales adopted by the Commonwealth or the other States. To cite a recent example, the New South Wales TAB privatisation Act provides a procedure for the public float and a legislative role for the Auditor-General to scrutinise the process. A more appropriate way of proceeding is for the Government to advise this Assembly as to what it proposes to do in respect of electricity, water and sewerage, and then to obtain support for these specific plans through the Assembly. Legislation could then be drafted to deal with the proposed scheme as to how this might be put into effect rather than giving the Executive free rein.
Effectively, the Bill gives the Executive carte blanche to deal with ACTEW as it likes, with no answerability or accountability to the Assembly. That is entirely unsatisfactory. It is oft said that this is our major asset. This Assembly is the body that determines the future of assets. It is going to be taken out of our hands. We do not like the sale and we do not like the way that it is being sold. It is eminently unsatisfactory and I urge all members to oppose this Bill.
MR HARGREAVES (5.31): I have an undertaking, Mr Rugendyke, to speak for no longer than three minutes, otherwise Mr Osborne is going to give me a signal. Mr Speaker, we have spoken long and hard about numbers and everybody is throwing them around everywhere. What we have not said is what the public feel about this. Mr Corbell tabled a petition which was fairly indicative of how people felt about it.