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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 3471 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

The separation of powers prevents me from intervening directly in the way in which the court organises its work, but members of this place are certainly entitled to ask questions about situations that arise where matters are not dealt with promptly, and I am entitled, as Attorney-General, to go back to the court concerned and ask them why those matters are occurring and whether steps are being taken to remedy them.

ACTEW - Sale

MR OSBORNE: Mr Speaker, I found that question of Mr Quinlan's a very good one. For the last seven years these two parties have been in court arguing over the fact that it was their lease, but when it comes time to pay they both say, "Hey, it's not ours".

MR SPEAKER: Then perhaps you would like to emulate him and ask your own question, please, Mr Osborne?

MR OSBORNE: They have spent thousands and thousands going to court, saying, "No, it's our lease". "Who is going to pay?". "No, no, no; it's theirs". Mr Speaker, my question is to the Chief Minister. Chief Minister, given that you and others have pointed out that the sale of ACTEW is the biggest issue this Assembly has ever faced, given that your party actively avoided taking the question of the sale of ACTEW to the last election, and given that your Government on numerous occasions has attempted to bring on citizen-initiated referendum legislation, would you, have you, or did you consider holding a referendum on the sale of ACTEW and seeking approval for the move from the people?

MS CARNELL: No, I did not because I believe really strongly that governments are elected to make tough decisions, and there is no doubt that this is a tough one. You just have to look at the situation in other States with regard to the sale of assets, particularly utilities, to know that this is the sort of decision that governments need to make and, I have to say, wear the consequences of. We take that responsibility very seriously.

The issues that are involved in the sale of an asset like ACTEW are very complex. I think members in this place made the point when we were debating it on Tuesday. I think I heard many people, including Mr Osborne and others, say that the level of information and the volume of information that you have to get across was such that we really needed to put off the debate for quite a number of weeks in order to allow members of this place to do so.

Mr Speaker, I do not think that is the sort of question that is easy to put to referendum simply because you cannot expect people out there in the community to take the same sort of time as members of this place believe they need to make that decision. Mr Speaker, this is one of the issues that I am sure every member will take extremely seriously and get on top of the data, such as reports like ABN AMRO, the information that will come from the committee and the Towers Perrin report. The list goes on, Mr Speaker. It involves lots of reading, lots of information, but it is an important decision.

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