Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 7 Hansard (4 June) . . Page.. 1841 ..
MR CORNWELL: I have a supplementary question. Treasurer, has your government considered making any changes to the ActewAGL joint venture arrangements?
MR QUINLAN: At this point, no, because I think the agreement is such that quite stringent conditions apply to making some changes and, effectively, to make some changes you would want a willingness on the part of both parties or a fundamental breakdown. Of course, this is an egg that cannot be unscrambled. We have a joint venture that is not only operating the distribution system and reticulation systems that it purchased, but also extending upon them. We now have the joint venture building additional arms to the distribution system in Gungahlin and other developmental areas, so that to undo the joint venture from this point would be a very difficult process.
MR STEFANIAK: My question is to the Treasurer and relates to the TransACT rollout. Treasurer, are you able to update the Assembly on TransACT's rollout of its broadband network? Can you explain to members why TransACT still has no plans scheduled for connecting Canberra's most northern suburbs to the network? If so, have you been able to assist TransACT to overcome these difficulties?
MR QUINLAN: To answer the last question first, I do not think that we are in a position to help them roll that out because that is a case of actually throwing money at the problem. Quite clearly, TransACT found difficulty, for a number of reasons, through the course of the last calendar year. We saw-I cannot remember the exact date, but people will remember it-a change in the leadership of the organisation, with Mr Del Gigante being appointed to the chief executive's position. We saw something of a clearout of the senior management ranks, which appeared to be a little bit overburdened.
We also saw-I am sure that members on the other side of the chamber would have been aware of it-a rationalisation of the rollout process. That was staged to bring forward, I guess, the date when TransACT became cash positive. They now have a rollout program which does put back some of the outer areas. They have, effectively, slowed down the rollout in order to try to consolidate on the premises they now pass that are not connected. I cannot give you the numbers off the top of my head, but in the last report I had TransACT were publicly claiming that their connection rate had accelerated considerably, so that they have virtually changed their plan.
Let me also advise members that, to some extent, they are cherry picking the market inasmuch as they are skirting around areas where there is underground electricity and it is much more difficult to reticulate a hard-wired system, much more difficult than it is in the back-spine overhead reticulated suburbs that are the norm around Canberra. In order to remain viable, TransACT has rearranged and has delayed some areas for connection. It is not out there trying to connect every house in Canberra by the end of the week. They do have a plan that spreads their time over a reasonable space.
Just as a bonus, I will say that, as I understand it from talking to people in the financial world, the prognosis for TransACT now is quite good. If TransACT can extend the product that it has available, possibly through picking up Fox Sports, and therefore widen the scope of the product that it can supply, the connections that I have in the