Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (8 December) . . Page.. 3259 ..
MR HARGREAVES (continuing):
Mr Speaker, we cannot allow this Bill to go through. There is no justification whatever for selling this asset. I have 30 seconds, Mr Osborne. All we are doing is selling the house to pay for our housing insurance. This is absolute garbage. When you see the conflicting statements in three reports, ABN AMRO has been discredited. The Auditor-General, in fact, talks about selling public hospitals, while the Government says they are not going to do it. The Australia Institute says it is worth a whole lot more than anybody thinks it is. I think we should take Paul Keating's advice; do not vote for it when we do not understand it. We should just chuck this whole lot out and revisit it again some other time, perhaps in the year 2050.
MR RUGENDYKE (5.36): Mr Speaker, my position in this debate is simple. There are too many unanswered questions for my liking. For this reason I cannot support agreeing to this Bill in principle today. Earlier today I voted to support the adjournment of this debate. Quite frankly, that is what I would still like to see occur. If push comes to shove and we have to complete the debate, I would not be in a position to offer a valid, well-considered vote. I am mindful of the urgency the Government is placing on the proposed sale. I am aware of the emerging changes to the competitive energy market and the questions this raises about ACTEW's ability to compete in this environment. While the Government is placing emphasis on time, we also have to consider the emphasis the Government has placed on the unfunded superannuation liability.
From the outset, I must say that it is an indictment on this Government that it has not conveyed its message to the community. It is clear that the Government wants to sell ACTEW, but it has not been successful in explaining to the community why and how our city will benefit. There are far too many unknowns for the community, and therefore there are too many unknowns for me to support a hurried decision today.
In explaining its position to the people of the ACT, the Government has leaned on the unfunded superannuation liability. Most of my constituency are trying to get their heads around this situation. They are asking how this happened. Are there other ways to tackle the problem? While the Government is presently pressing urgency throughout this debate, it has also pressed the superannuation debt just as heavily, so it is only reasonable and sensible that we put it to the test and subject the superannuation liability to the full inquiry of the recently formed committee. An inquiry can clearly reveal to the community the exact nature of the debt and what it means to the Territory. Community responsibility is a key element in my considerations.
One of the reasons the community is struggling to accept the sale of ACTEW is that ACTEW is serving us so well. Its service is second to none and its standing in the community is beyond question. For example, there are no doubts that we have the best drinking water in Australia. It is understandable that the community does not want to lose this. The community does not want to compromise the standards, reliability or quality of a service which is valued in Canberra. ACTEW has upheld its commitment to community responsibilities. The community wants to see this preserved. We need to be sure that the environment is taken care of. We need to be sure that community service obligations are taken care of.