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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 1 Hansard (2 February) . . Page.. 65 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

competition and thus to a major decrease in value. The figures in the ABN AMRO report on the valuation of ACTEW have been shown to be not as exact as the Government has been making out, because it all seems to depend on which valuation method and discount rate is used. We spoke at length about that this morning and, obviously, covered it at length in our report. The Government also misleadingly chose to use the highest ABN AMRO valuation of ACTEW if sold and the lowest valuation of ACTEW if kept in public hands, which distorted the potential loss to the ACT if ACTEW were not sold.

I also question the Government's assessment of the risks, given that water and sewerage systems and, to a lesser extent, electricity are essential services. The Government will always be subject to the risk of having to fix up any problems if the private operator fails to fulfil its obligations or goes out of business. I also question whether there is less risk in investing the proceeds of the sale of ACTEW in volatile investment markets than in keeping that money invested in solid infrastructure.

In conclusion, I do not think that the Government has presented sufficiently strong arguments to justify the sale of ACTEW. It was interesting to hear the Chief Minister in her speech talk about the various places where there have been problems and how these problems have nothing to do with privatisation because the utilities are publicly owned. What the Chief Minister failed to acknowledge and what is clear is that most or all of those utilities have been corporatised and are obliged to work as a business and that if they do not do it well they are under the threat of sale. That is exactly what has happened in the ACT. (Further extension of time granted)

There has been a decline in the effort put in towards maintenance in the ACT by ACTEW since it has been corporatised. There are many of us in this Assembly and in the community who are concerned about forcing government owned utilities to act in a businesslike way, but it has to be acknowledged that that is the environment in which publicly our utilities are working in Australia now. The Chief Minister's claims were quite spurious.

The Greens believe that it is a matter of how broad and long term is the view taken when the costs and benefits of proposals such as the sale of ACTEW are estimated. The view of the Government is dangerously narrow, the economic outcomes always being given priority. The principles of the market are being imposed on government businesses. The principles of the market, according to the Liberals and their supporters, are always going to deliver good outcomes to the ACT community. We do not share that view. The Greens give equal emphasis to the social and environmental implications and we are far from convinced that the sale of essential services to the profit-motivated private sector is in the long-term community interest.

MR MOORE (Minister for Health and Community Care) (4.46): Mr Deputy Speaker, no-one wants to sell ACTEW. Nobody in his right mind would want to go out to the community and say, "Hey, what I want to do is to sell ACTEW". I must admit, Mr Deputy Speaker, that it is something that I was incredibly reluctant to give the time of day to when I first heard it spoken about, as was almost every other member of this Assembly and the previous Assembly, well over a year ago - more like 18 months ago.

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