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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 1 Hansard (2 February) . . Page.. 49 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

It is the Government that has tried to brush off the need for serious logical debate and ignored the strength of public opposition. It is the Government which is stuck in the mud of the past, championing a discredited policy of privatisation, and which stands condemned by the entire Canberra community for its blinkered commitment to blind ideology.

MR KAINE (3.42): This whole debate, to the extent that there has been any debate, about the future of ACTEW has been a rather curious one. It seems to have been characterised by a determination of the Government not to engage in debate. There has been very little done to inform the public, for example, on what the issues are in this matter. Indeed, there has been very little done to inform members of this place on the issues involved. I cannot speak for the Opposition; I can speak for myself and I think I can probably speak for other members of the crossbenches, who have tried over recent months to get information from the Government and have met a blank silence.

If the Government was so interested in engaging in debate - and the Chief Minister challenged us to come up with alternatives a little while ago - why did she not respond to a request for information so that we could intelligently engage in that debate? It is not good enough, at this stage when the Government's ploy of trying to get the thing through without public debate is beginning to unravel, to challenge the crossbenchers and the Opposition to come up with their alternatives. There has been no debate. The Government has not wanted to have any debate, and they have made sure, to the best of their ability, that no debate has taken place. I refute the challenge that the Chief Minister issued a few minutes ago that the crossbenchers and the Opposition should come forward with their alternatives. The Government has not wanted to hear any alternatives. I do not believe they would have listened to any alternatives from the Opposition. They certainly did not want to engage in any debate with the crossbenchers to see whether there were any.

During the recent debate on this issue, particularly at the Press Club, a representative of the Australia Institute made a statement which I thought was a pertinent one. He said:

Credibility is a commodity that is difficult to obtain but so easy to lose.

To the extent that the Government has any credibility on this issue, I think they are in danger of losing it. Their argument seems to be based on the proposition that, if it is possible, it is. The Chief Minister referred to the ABN AMRO consultant report a little while ago. She said that those consultants said that the value of ACTEW could reduce by $500m if we did not do anything - "could", not "will". But in the Chief Minister's argument on this issue that has become "will". She has translated the consultants' comment into not possibility, not even probability, but actuality. If we do nothing, it will lose half a billion dollars in value. I see that through the whole debate, and I will come back to it in connection with another matter before I conclude.

Mr Speaker, my position on this issue has been made quite clear publicly. There are three reasons why I have had reservations about the Government's proposal. The first stems from the fact that there has been an increasing public perception that what the Government was proposing was wrong. I do not believe I am the only person in this place who is bound to have some regard for that. The Chief Minister has said publicly,

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