Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 1 Hansard (2 February) . . Page.. 43 ..

MS CARNELL (continuing):

If anybody in this place honestly believes that you can solve the Territory's operating loss - something that the Auditor-General has told us will cause a problem for our quality of life down the track and that Mr Quinlan has said is unsustainable - by not selling ACTEW and moving $45m out of our budget into our superannuation provision account, then I have to say that it is a new form of accounting. It is very easy to make an emotional decision in this area. It is jolly hard to make a decision based upon the facts, because there are a lot of facts.

Over the last few months, and probably somewhat longer for me, we have been subjected to a huge amount of documentation. I know that sometimes the reaction to that is to say, "It is all too hard. We will just maintain the status quo". But, Mr Speaker, the status quo is not an option. The CEO of ACTEW and the board of ACTEW have made that clear, as has the Auditor-General. The status quo is not an option. That is not what we are voting for today. We are voting for a situation where ACTEW stays in public ownership, where it has to shed staff - even the Australia Institute understood that - where we have to look at doing something with the retail arm of ACTEW, where the entity has to look elsewhere for possible dollars, and I cannot see where it could be but in the private sector, to commercialise TransAct and Cranos.

We are making a decision today to make the only option available for our operating loss to be either increased taxes or reduced expenditure. Again, these are not my words; they are the Auditor-General's words, Mr Speaker. He said that there are only three ways - increase taxes, reduce expenditure or sell assets. Mr Speaker, those opposite and those on the crossbench are saying that you cannot sell assets. So, Mr Speaker, when I make comments about the budget to come, it is not using scare tactics. It is exactly what the Auditor-General has already told all of us. If we do not do this today, there is no choice at all but to reduce expenditure and put the pressure on revenue. Again, they are not my comments; they are those of the Auditor-General.

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (3.22): Mr Speaker, since self-government, this Assembly has quite regularly, and in the main quite unremarkably, dealt with issues of great importance to the Territory and to the Territory's citizens. But this proposal - that the Territory sell its largest asset, ACTEW - is arguably the most important issue that this legislature has dealt with. This is an issue of defining importance, Mr Speaker. It is an issue that demands to be resolved.

It is an issue of critical importance for more than one reason - first, and most obviously, because the Government proposes to sell this community's largest asset, an asset whose operations directly affect every household, every person and every business in the ACT. It is not a proposition to be taken lightly. Once sold, ACTEW is gone forever.

Second, the Government has tied its proposal to sell ACTEW, directly and by implication, to a raft of financial pressures facing the ACT, each of which is important and each of which needs to be addressed. We agree with the Chief Minister in that regard. What is immediately questionable is the Government's assertion that the only way to solve these financial problems is to sell ACTEW. Sell the house to pay the mortgage - the classic response. Flog off the farm to build the fences.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .