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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 4 Hansard (20 April) . . Page.. 996 ..

MR QUINLAN (continuing):

Let us focus for a moment on water and sewerage. Great Southern Energy is not in the water and sewerage business. It used to be, but it got out of it. Yes, we are considering some minor extensions of our system to Queanbeyan and maybe as far as Yass, but it is hardly to be considered a common or shared interest. So why on earth would we consider giving up 50 per cent control over our basic resource, water, and our basic service, sewerage? Is there any reason other than the desire for cash?

I noticed in question time that the old "synergies" popped out. The Government might want to trot out the argument for economies of scale and toss around that word "synergies". "Synergies" is like reform. It is so often used to camouflage other agendas, but not necessarily reform; it is just doing it our way. But let us hang with "synergies". There is greater synergy between water and sewerage and general and land rating in the ACT. There is certainly more synergy between the water operation in the ACT and general rating than there is between electricity and water and sewerage. There is greater correlation in the database in Canberra for the water customer database and the land rates database. It is almost one to one. That is not so with water and electricity. With electricity the occupant, not the owner, is responsible for the consumption and is responsible for paying for it - the occupant is the customer.

If we are looking for economies of scale, I presume that ABN AMRO would be looking in that direction so that we can enjoy the economies of scale within the ACT without necessarily losing control over our assets. Why would we contemplate negotiating away 50 per cent of our control over water and sewerage for what? It is not necessarily economies of scale. I have grave reservations as to the service level and maintenance level decisions where half the decision-making power of a potential merged organisation belongs to parties with no interest that goes beyond money that could be derived from the operations.

I have the greatest respect for our Labor colleagues in New South Wales, so much so that I am bit concerned about their capacity and ability to screw a Liberal ACT government. Ms Carnell was very keen to drop Michael Egan's name in question time. Is it the case that she has been charmed by Mr Egan into thinking that she is his mate? Has he stroked her ego a little as he has done the salesman's job on her?

Mr Humphries: It might be vice versa.

MR QUINLAN: I doubt it, mate. Their responsibility is to the people of New South Wales, not to the ACT, and we have to accept that New South Wales politicians of any persuasion would be happy to do a deal that advantages their constituency at the expense of Canberra. I have a mental picture of Michael Egan grinning widely at the prospect of negotiating with an ACT Chief Minister who has a need for a pile of cash, as this one does.

I do not expect this time round to get a great deal of information from this Government. We will get snippets if there is a propaganda snoop value in them, otherwise there will be more misinformation than information. "What is new?", I hear you ask. So I went to the annual reports. We discussed this matter in question time. The case is that the equity held in ACTEW of the last audited financial reports published is about $1.2 billion and for Great Southern Energy it is something less than $400m, a bit better than three times

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