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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 10 Hansard (28 August) . . Page.. 3351 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

camera hearing. That was the Chief Minister's assessment of the source for the Canberra Times page 1 story "Actew puts in extra $29m" on Saturday, 18 August. Can the chairman of the committee tell the Assembly what steps he took in the process of getting information from the government on this issue?

MR QUINLAN: Thank you, Mr Stanhope.

Mr Hird: This could be a dorothy dixer.

MR QUINLAN: It probably is, to clear the air. I guess this process actually commenced in June this year when there were some rumours and the publication of those rumours in the Canberra Times. I think the first whistleblower was Graham Downie of the Canberra Times, who wrote under the headline, "TransACT's future uncertain as board members call talks". The article went on to say, "TransACT fully funded: board reassures top company staff." I have to say Mr Downie has now moved to the high moral ground in terms of the commercial viability of TransACT, but he was amongst the first of the whistleblowers.

Mr John Mackay, a board member of TransACT, was quoted as saying the factors contributing to the nervousness amongst senior staff were minor technical problems and the skittishness on the part of the media and the public. He did concede that there had been some increase in costs, mainly related to currency exchange. "Not a major concern, but something we had to deal with," he said.

But the rumours abounded. The CEO was on gardening leave, apparently. A number of senior staff were leaving, not just one high profile senior staff member, and there were rumours that Actew was propping up TransACT with deferred credit of about $2 million a month which was intended to run for about a year.

So, on 20 July I took this issue to the public accounts committee and, as a function of the deliberations of that committee, the committee requested the Treasurer, with representatives from Actew and TransACT-TransACT if they were available-to attend a hearing, which would be held in camera but would be on Hansard, for the purpose of scotching those rumours. The appearance took place on 27 July, in camera, and was recorded by Hansard, with the rider that the committee reserved the right to publish Hansard should it deem necessary. That rider was incorporated into a written statement which was handed to each of the people who appeared before the committee, who were the Chief Minister and Treasurer, Mr Humphries, the CEO of Actew, Mr Paul Perkins, and Mr John Mackay representing the board of TransACT. That hearing was held and certain facts were placed on the table, I have to say, to some surprise to the committee members.

On 3 August the public accounts committee met again and decided that it ought to write to the Treasurer and suggest to him that he ought to advise the Assembly of the additional funds that had been provided to TransACT. That letter specified the concerns of the committee and was immediately delivered to the Chief Minister's office on 3 August.

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