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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 4 Hansard (20 April) . . Page.. 1003 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

The ACT Government, blocked from selling its water and electricity assets, is seeking expressions of interest that may ultimately award operations of the one billion dollar ACTEW asset entirely -

my emphasis -

to the private sector.

Mr Deputy Speaker, is that the issue we are trying to address? Is that the issue that this Assembly asked the Government to address when it rejected the proposed sale? No, it is not. The issue that this Assembly asked the Government to address was about fixing the risk, managing the risk, in the electricity retail aspects of ACTEW's operations. That is where this Assembly said that there was a problem. There is no problem with the water. We understand that. All of us here know that. There is no problem with the sewerage. All of us here understand that. Indeed, there is not even a problem with electricity distribution - the wires business. We all understand that. The one aspect that we do understand is subject to risk is the electricity retail business. Time and again members of this place, not only on this side of the house but also on the crossbench, have said that that is where you should be investigating options for strategic alliances between ACTEW and other electricity retailers. Those are the opportunities that should be addressed. Instead, this Government has come back to the debate that it lost three months ago and said, "We are going to look at all of ACTEW. We don't really want this thing. We have to try to off-load it in some way. We have to try to get some money for it". That is a fundamental failure. That underlines this Government's fundamental failure to address the issue that this Assembly has asked it to address, and that is retail electricity only. That is what needs to be addressed.

Mr Deputy Speaker, it is no wonder that the Chief Minister feels so passionately about this issue because, for the first time since she has been in government, she will have to manage a budget without asset sales and she is desperately looking for a way to get some cash to make her reputation look good and justify her claim that she is some whiz financial manager. She is in for a harder task than she thinks because this Assembly knows what the issues are and it knows that the moves the Government has taken so far in addressing ACTEW are fundamentally beyond that which the Assembly has raised time and again.

MS TUCKER (4.29): I will be brief because I know a number of people still want to speak. I share the concerns that have been expressed by Mr Corbell on the process of opening up this matter for discussion. Apparently a press release was put out explaining it, which I will look at, but I cannot understand how anyone could have confidence in a process where expressions of interest are being sought at the same time as detailed discussions are occurring with a particular party. I agree with Mr Corbell that there is a lack of trust in the Government's processes around ACTEW. The committee that looked at the superannuation liability certainly challenged the accuracy or the validity of the reports that Mrs Carnell has referred to in her speech today. Obviously, there are different views on how we can manage the issues of risk following the deregulation of the electricity market.

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