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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 1 Hansard (17 February) . . Page.. 263 ..

MS CARNELL (continuing):

owned corporations produce a significant amount of the revenue for the ongoing running of this Territory. They are very large assets. As I have said often and as many of us have said, they are operating in very competitive environments and therefore need the best possible boards.

Later I will move a government amendment. I foreshadow it now. The Government's amendment will overcome the problems that I have spoken about already. It will ensure that members of the Assembly are fully informed in a timely manner of the membership of TOCs and their subsidiaries and of the skills and qualifications of various board members. If the concern of the Assembly is that they do not know about appointments to various boards, my amendment, if passed, will ensure that whenever an appointment is made the relevant committee is informed immediately. The appointment will have been made, so the committee cannot knock back the appointment. I fully agree with that.

If the committee could knock back an appointment, then, as I said in my initial comments, the committee could politicise an appointment. Everything that board members or company directors have told me would be true. They would be putting themselves up to a potential knockback by the Assembly.

I would rather not use names, but the chair of ACTEW is on a number of boards and is regarded around Australia as an eminent company director. He is simply not going to put his name forward if there is a chance, for whatever reason, that this Assembly may choose to knock it back. He has a number of other board appointments, and hopefully potential ones in the future, that are much more lucrative but also very much part of his job. If this Bill is about ensuring that information is available to the Assembly, would it not be more sensible to go down the path of the amendment? The appropriate committee will be informed when an appointment is made, but will not be able to knock back a shareholder's appointment.

I think that balances the two sides of the agenda. It will ensure that we do not have to settle for board members who are second best. It will ensure that the ACTEW board, say, can make appointments to subsidiary boards they are directly responsible for. The board of ACTEW is directly responsible for their subsidiary boards. They have corporate responsibility under corporate law to ensure that positions on those boards are properly filled. The amendment will ensure that the board of ACTEW and the board of Totalcare can make those decisions under corporate law. It will allow, I hope, a balance to be struck.

I would ask members of the Assembly to think about this Bill seriously. If it means that even one or two of our best company directors or potential board members in Canberra might decide not to take the risk of having their position politicised, the ACT would be the worse for that, and for what? What is the benefit? Are there any examples? There probably is one, but I am sure Mr Berry does not want to talk about the old ACTTAB board. Are there any examples, under this Government, of inappropriate appointments to boards? I would like to say that there are not. Certainly, no-one has brought any to my attention.

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