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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 1 Hansard (2 February) . . Page.. 61 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

Mr Deputy Speaker, the alternative is clear. The alternative is to keep ACTEW; ensure that job losses are kept to the absolute minimum; ensure that our local economy is protected by keeping ACTEW and its business local; ensure high standards of supply are maintained; keep control over the very important and significant water and sewerage network; retain that unique and important engineering and technical knowledge for the benefit of all in our community; and retain the asset of ACTEW itself and the dividend that it returns to the Territory.

Mr Deputy Speaker, we face a crucial choice. The aspirations of the people of Canberra, through their overwhelming opposition to the sale, are clear: Keep ACTEW for all of us; protect the public interest; recognise that we have common interests as citizens, not just as consumers; and recognise that there is more than one way to address the vital issues that our city faces.

MS TUCKER (4.29): The debate over ACTEW that we have had to endure over the last few months has really exposed the worst side of this Government. It has tried to rush a decision through the Assembly against public opinion and without full examination of all the issues. Firstly, the Government put up the proposal to sell ACTEW, a decision affecting $1 billion of the ACT people's assets, without raising this proposal as part of its platform at the last ACT election only a year ago. The ACT community had no idea that this proposal was coming. The Government therefore has no public mandate to pursue the sale of ACTEW. In fact, opinion polling has, as other members have said, consistently shown that a majority of the community is opposed to the sale of ACTEW.

Secondly, the Government based its proposal on a very limited consultant's study of the financial value of ACTEW, without addressing broader implications for the ACT community. The terms of reference for the ABN AMRO study were focused particularly on examining options for ACTEW with a view to maximising the short-term financial returns to the Government while minimising commercial risk. The broader public interest questions, such as the overall net benefit to the community of a sale, were dealt with very poorly in the consultant's report.

I noted that the Chief Minister quoted again today the Auditor-General's report. I remind members that in that report there was a paragraph entitled "Other considerations" and in that paragraph, from memory, the Auditor-General said that there were other considerations, environmental and social. (Quorum formed) I was speaking of the Auditor-General's report and the fact that there was only one paragraph in it that referred to the broader public interest issues that have been raised by members of the Labor Party. It was assumed by the Auditor-General that these broader public interest concerns would be looked at. The point is that they have not.

The Government attempted to force through a vote on the sale proposal in only two months. They announced their intention to sell ACTEW in October and wanted the Assembly to make the decision in December. Many lesser pieces of legislation take longer than that to get through the Assembly. The Government refused to support my proposal for a select committee to inquire into the social, environmental and economic

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