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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 4 Hansard (20 April) . . Page.. 969 ..

MS CARNELL (continuing):

future. Members of this Assembly have all accepted that the retail arm of ACTEW is open to substantial risk. There are risks in other parts of the organisation, too. Mr Speaker, we believe really strongly that the appropriate approach is not, as those opposite obviously believe it is, to sit on our hands and allow that risk to engulf the organisation.

The board of ACTEW has continued to recommend to the shareholders of ACTEW that we need to move. Initially, they recommended that we should look at a sale option. This Assembly has decided not to do that. The board now has gone down a path of looking at different options because it, as well, understands that doing nothing is not an option. Unfortunately, the only people who seem to believe that doing nothing is an option are those opposite.

Mr Stanhope: That is not true.

MS CARNELL: That is really interesting. Mr Stanhope said, "That is not true". Please tell us what is true. We know that they do not want a sale. We now know that they do not want a merger or a strategic alliance. Those opposite just want to oppose. They will oppose anything, regardless of what is in the best interests of the people of the ACT, the owners of ACTEW. They are willing to allow ACTEW's value to decrease and the risk associated with electricity retailing, which those opposite have agreed exists, to engulf the organisation.

We are not willing to do that. Mr Speaker, we are working with New South Wales Labor. I know those opposite have trouble working with the Labor Government in New South Wales, but I do not have a problem doing that. Why is it that New South Wales Labor - - -

Mr Stanhope: Neither do they. I wonder why they do not.

MS CARNELL: Mr Stanhope, I know you are embarrassed but, just for a moment, have a listen. Why is New South Wales Labor interested in a merger with ACTEW?

Mr Stanhope: Good question.

MS CARNELL: Okay, it is a good question. What did Michael Egan say in answer to that question? He said that in a competitive market the risk associated with small distributors was too high.

Mr Berry: Why did he not amalgamate with one of his own?

MS CARNELL: He made the point that small entities such as Great Southern needed to become bigger to have better buying power in the market, to be able to spread their overheads over a bigger base and to be able to compete in an ever-changing market. That is what the Labor Treasurer in New South Wales said.

Mr Berry asked another question which I should not be responding to but I am going to. He asked, "Why are they merging with ACTEW?".

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