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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 4 Hansard (22 April) . . Page.. 1161 ..

MS CARNELL: Mr Speaker, those opposite did argue that the value of ACTEW was as the Australia Institute had very wrongly assessed during the debate on the sale. It is interesting that they now will not back that up by allowing it to be added to the balance sheet. I understand why, because the $1.7 billion was always rubbish.

ACTEW - Customers

MR HIRD: Mr Speaker, I thought question time was a precious time for this house. I also thought that ACTEW had been done to death. It would appear that those opposite have to pursue something. We should be spending our time, sir, on more important things. My question, Mr Speaker, is to the Chief Minister, Mrs Carnell, in her capacity as one of the voting shareholders of ACTEW Corporation. I was not going to raise this but they did it for me. I refer to claims attributed to the mighty guru, Mr Berry, on Prime Television last week that the ACT Labor Party had successfully attracted former electricity customers of ACTEW back to the corporation. Can you, Chief Minister, confirm whether any former customers have returned to ACTEW to buy their power, and if not, why they have not?

MS CARNELL: Thank you very much, Mr Hird, for the question.

Mr Moore: An excellent question.

MS CARNELL: Mr Speaker, it is an excellent question. It would be very unfortunate if Mr Berry had produced the wrong information on media outlets and maybe given people the wrong impression, would it not, Mr Speaker? This issue is probably the best example of the difference between this Government and those opposite when you look at our respective approaches to managing Canberra. On one hand we have a government that is looking to the future and trying to do all it can to ensure that ACTEW remains a viable operation long after all of us have left this place. On the other hand we have a Labor Party which is looking backwards to a time that no longer exists, when electricity retailing was a monopoly and businesses did not have a choice about where they purchased their power from.

Mr Speaker, last week Mr Berry said that he wrote a letter to more than 70 former customers who had decided to purchase their electricity elsewhere. Mr Berry argued that, as good corporate citizens, these companies should support ACTEW, thereby helping to stop the downsizing of the corporation which is likely to see a further 5 per cent in staff cuts over the next year.

What Mr Berry did not tell people was that one of the organisations that now buy their power from a supplier other than ACTEW was in fact the Australian Council of Trade Unions' building in Barton. I, for one, would have loved to have been there, Mr Speaker, when the relevant person at the ACTU opened the mail in the morning and found the letter from comrade Berry urging the ACTU to start being a decent corporate citizen and move back to ACTEW. Nor did Mr Berry tell the people that at least half-a-dozen licensed clubs, or about 10 per cent of that industry, are also buying their electricity interstate. We know that a good percentage of the media outlets in this city, too, are buying their power elsewhere.

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