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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 1 Hansard (2 February) . . Page.. 81 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

Mr Speaker, I say again to members of this place that defeating the sale of ACTEW today does not end the debate on this issue. You simply defer it. You simply leave the hard choice for sometime later. How much later, I do not know. That again has not been made clear to the Government. When are we going to make this decision? When are we going to face the hard decisions? There are hard decisions. You know that. You know that there are hard decisions.

If Mr Quinlan and Mr Hargreaves, and possibly others in this parliamentary Labor Party, were sitting in the New South Wales parliamentary Labor Party they would be on the other side of the chamber in both senses - both in the sense that they would be in government at the moment and they would be on the other side of the debate on the question of privatisation. The so-called discredited ideology Mr Stanhope referred to would be being espoused in the mouths of some of your colleagues here today, and you know that.

The fact of the matter is that, if you do not espouse privatisation, you have to espouse something else which is going to be a tangible and real way of addressing those problems. We have tried to do it over the last six months. You do not like it. You are going to knock it off today. That is fine. But you have to come back with your alternative at some point. You have to do that because you have already shared the responsibility for making this decision by the way in which this vote is conducted today. You have said, "We get the right to make a decision about this as well". If you have that right, you have a responsibility which goes with it.

MR RUGENDYKE (5.45): Mr Speaker, I have already declared my opposition to the Government's sale proposal and it was a decision that was quite difficult to arrive at. I began the research on ACTEW in earnest last September. In the ensuing four months I have made every endeavour to talk to a broad cross-section of stakeholders and to absorb as much quality information as possible to settle on my position. For me this was not a case of simply falling into a party or ideological line. I had a genuine decision to make and I have pored over the evidence from both sides of the debate and from independent sources during the past few months. I have gathered information from all avenues - from community and business groups, from environmental groups, from interstate politicians, and I have also visited the Prospect water plant in Sydney. At the end of the day, the Government's argument for selling ACTEW immediately is not conclusive.

In light of this scenario it is my responsibility to the citizens of the ACT to err on the side of caution. I cannot agree to throw ACTEW away when there is no clear evidence that a sale will realise the best community benefit. Mrs Carnell would like the community to believe that this, for me, was a gutless option. I would suggest that it was the Government which was gutless prior to the last election. There is no question that selling ACTEW has always been on the Government's plans, certainly in 1997, perhaps in 1996, maybe even in 1995, but they did not have the guts to be up-front with the electorate. For me, the soft option would have been to call for a referendum on the issue, knowing that this would have put an end to the sale. Instead, I chose to fully research all available facts and come to a credible well-placed decision, which is why the so-called urgency to pass this Bill has been impossible to swallow.

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