Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (8 December) . . Page.. 3260 ..
MR RUGENDYKE (continuing):
The Government has recognised that its proposed sale must go hand in hand with appropriate consumer and environmental protection measures. The Government has tabled the statement of regulatory intent for utilities in the ACT, but I am not sure it includes enough detail. I cannot say today that I agree in principle to selling ACTEW when we do not have a clearer picture of the regulations that will go with it. Also, Mr Speaker, if ACTEW were to be sold, how would the value of the sale be preserved? The worst result would be selling ACTEW today only to see the proceeds raided or frittered away in the future. I would like to see ironclad evidence of how the Government intends to protect the Territory from this danger.
In closing, Mr Speaker, I would like to compare this biggest single issue that this Government has raised with the biggest single issue its Federal colleagues have raised in recent times. Federally, the Liberal Party took the GST campaign to the Federal election. The GST was something that people feared and the Liberal Party had to embark on a concerted education process in the community in an effort to gain acceptance of the GST package. We can now see how much difficulty the Federal Government is having in getting its GST package passed. Mr Speaker, I have an open mind on what is best for the future of ACTEW, but I feel that we would be best served by deferring a decision until after the superannuation inquiry has reported in February and after we have had a chance to analyse the Auditor-General's report and the Australia Institute's report.
MR OSBORNE (5.42): I move:
That the debate be adjourned.
I seek leave to make a short statement on that motion.
MR OSBORNE: I will try to be 31/2 minutes, Mr Speaker, unlike Mr Hargreaves who misled the Assembly and spoke for four minutes. Mr Speaker, before the election in February, a group of independent candidates, of which I was one, predicted that ACTEW would be sold irrespective of whether the Government ended up Liberal or Labor. We did so because we believed that both parties would take the easy option - the option of selling the family silver, the option of privatising ACTEW, if elected, to deal with the financial problems of the Territory. We thought the public had a right to know what the next term of the Assembly was going to bring.
I remember very clearly the speed with which the Chief Minister, back in those closing days of the election campaign, went into her damage control mode. She could not get before the television cameras quickly enough to dismiss the outrageous predictions of the Osborne Independents. The sale of ACTEW, she declared, while putting on her honest Kate face, was not on the Liberal Party agenda.