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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 1 Hansard (2 February) . . Page.. 71 ..

MR QUINLAN (continuing):

with this Government - that they will have difficulty in balancing their books if we do not sell ACTEW. That is the claim, and that is the truth; but the truth arrives out of their desire to perpetuate the process that they are involved in now of selling assets to balance budgets.

We have no assurance whatsoever that the proceeds of selling ACTEW will be around in three years' time when this Government expires and shuffles off. How much of that billion dollars is going to be left after this particular Government? The record is of asset sales - the magistrates courts, light fleets, and absorbing the capital of ACTEW on operating expenditures. Why would they change their spots? The solution is to sell ACTEW. They are going to spend the change. Kate Carnell is not interested in $770m for the superannuation; she is interested in the change to get through three years. So a quarter of our asset will be burnt but she will still be making claims of pride in her economic management: "Look what we have done. We have sold assets. See you later. I am off to corporate Australia".

Some reference has been made to improvement in service in Victoria. Let us be damned clear about this: The major improvement of standards in Victoria occurred while the Victorian system was in public hands. There have been marginal increases since, but nothing like the standards that we have in the ACT have been reached.

I do call for a continuation of the work on the regulatory framework. I think that should be done methodically. There are no urgent problems associated with that, but I think that is an appropriate legacy we can leave from this fiasco and this billion-plus expenditure on consultants. I certainly will not be around in 50 years, as Mrs Carnell will not, but our kids and our grandkids will be, and I would like to think that they have a community structure that is a centrepiece for the Territory in which they live, and that they own it as we owned it.

The Government has referred to some expert opinions that they have had. Well, we have had some expert opinions given to us too through the course of this debate. We have heard the Australia Institute, we have heard the TLC, we have heard the ETU, we have heard the CPSU, we have heard the unions involved that represent the people who work there, and we have heard the people of Canberra, regular consumers of the services of ACTEW. (Extension of time granted) As regular consumers of the services of ACTEW, they are expert in their own right and they have clearly given their opinion. Their wishes should be respected.

MR OSBORNE (5.11): Mr Deputy Speaker, it is a truism that you can only sell off the family silver once. When it has gone, it has gone forever. That is why decisions to turn an inheritance into cash should be made with both care and caution. I believe that there is no second chance. That thought has been very much in my mind since the Chief Minister first raised with me the need to sell ACTEW in order to put the finances of the ACT Government on a sound footing. I understood her argument about the budgetary pressures to come in future years from the millstone of an unfunded superannuation liability. Like the Chief Minister, I could not see any easy answer and I was sympathetic to her desire to ensure that future generations were not saddled with a crippling financial burden. But I was also disquieted by the thought of selling off the one great asset of the Australian Capital Territory to remove its one great liability.

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