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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 8 Hansard (9 August) . . Page.. 2743 ..

MR KAINE (continuing):

The only reference to finance really is that any dividend from this operation will be payable to the government. Well, I do not know where the dividend is going to come from. What the bill is silent on is this question of financing the activities of ACTION. Are they going to say, for example, that from next year there is going to be no more public money put into it from the budget? If that is the case, where do they expect the money is going to come from to continue to finance the operations of ACTION? I cannot see any commercial operator or any private organisation putting into the ACTION bus system the money that is going to be required on a continuing annual basis as far into the future as you can see for the time being. It simply is not a commercial operation, and nobody is going to accept it as such.

I guess the other thing that bothers me and that I think needs to be clarified is the question that seems to be bothering Mr Osborne, and that is the ability of this board to sell the assets-either to sell it as a going concern or to dispose of any of the assets of the corporation-because the bill provides that the disposal of assets can be put into effect with nothing but the Treasurer's approval. We have been through the ActewAGL deal and most people in this place, I suspect, felt that that decision should have rested with the Assembly, not just the Treasurer. Yet here we have another significant public asset which the government proposes to transfer to a corporation and the assets can be sold merely with the approval of the Treasurer.

I think it needs rather more than that if people like Mr Osborne and others are to be satisfied that the public interest in those assets is going to be maintained. I would suggest to the minister that he needs something rather stronger than the provision that the assets cannot be disposed of except with the Treasurer's approval. I think it requires far more than that.

So, Mr Speaker, there are some aspects of the bill that trouble me. I think changes need to be made, but I am not concerned, as Mr Osborne seems to be, that the whole operation is going to fall apart the day after we corporatise it and people are going to lose their jobs and their entitlements to conditions of service and the like. That simply is not going to happen because the nature of the operation is not going to change simply because we transfer the responsibility for management to a corporate board.

I support the principle of what the government is proposing here, and I think there are valid reasons for doing so, but I am not going to respond to Mr Osborne's challenge to justify it. That is the government's job. It is the government's proposal, and if Mr Osborne has questions about that he should be asking the minister, not me. But I do support in principle what the government is proposing. We will worry about the detail when we get down to the detail stage of debate.

MS TUCKER (8.28): These two bills are a package that set up a new regulatory and administrative framework for the operation of bus services in Canberra. The Road Transport (Public Passenger Services) Bill sets up a new system for the accreditation of all public bus services in the ACT. The bill also allows the government to enter into service contracts for the operation of regular route services in the ACT which will specify minimum service levels. ACTION will be required to have a service contract as well as the private operators that pick up and set down passengers in the ACT, such as Deane's Buslines.

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