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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 4 Hansard (21 April) . . Page.. 1026 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

the environment, complying with the principles of ecologically sustainable development. These objectives are to have equal importance with the existing commercial objectives of TOCs.

However, to make sure that these objectives are put into practice, there needs to be a commitment from the highest management level of the TOCs, which is their boards. Otherwise, the objectives just become hollow promises that bear little relationship to the corporations' day-to-day activities. It is quite clear that the make-up of a board of a particular corporation can have a major influence on the corporation's priorities and performance.

My Bill will therefore require the boards of TOCs to include three persons who represent specific interests. One person must be an employee, former employee or union official who is committed to the protection of the interests of employees of the TOC. One person must represent the interests of the clients or customers of the TOC through having experience in consumer rights or provision of community services. Those TOCs such as ACTEW and Totalcare whose operations impact on the environment must have a person who is qualified in, and has a commitment to, environment protection. To avoid the situation of governments stacking the boards with their own supporters, the Bill will require the Government to seek three nominations for each of these positions from the relevant peak community organisations - that is, the ACT Trades and Labour Council, the ACT Council of Social Service and the Conservation Council of the South-East Region and Canberra. These groups work intensively in their areas of interest and have wide community networks and thus are best placed to know who are the best people for these boards.

The Government will still be able to make the final appointment of persons to fill director positions or to remove directors, and is not obliged to accept the nominations provided by the community organisations. This provision will maintain the Ministers' legal responsibility as shareholders of the TOCs. However, if the Government does not accept any of the groups' nominations, then it has to table a statement in the Assembly explaining its appointments and be subject to this statement being potentially disallowed by the Assembly.

This initiative is to inject some real industrial democracy into the operations of Territory-owned corporations and to make them more accountable to the community at large. Industrial democracy is often talked about as a way of minimising industrial disputes and increasing productivity, but unfortunately it is too little practised by corporations in this country. It is quite common for boards of statutory authorities to include representatives of particular interests, but there seems to be a general reluctance to extend this principle to corporations. There seems to be a belief that only accountants and business people can run corporations, but I think this approach is very narrow-minded and ignores the wide range of non-financial challenges that TOCs face, particularly in terms of managing their work force and responding to the concerns of their clients. I believe that the boards will be more effective by having on them a few people

on them with a range of external perspectives, who may be able to pre-empt problems that could arise if the board just adopts a narrow economic perspective to issues facing the organisation.

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