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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (19 February) . . Page.. 206 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

The statement by the Treasurer that this information will provide us with nothing is disheartening, but we will wait for it and see. The information that has been provided on Totalcare through estimates, through the annual report process and through the budget has not been helpful in terms of being able to figure out the situation. Hopefully, this motion will at least give us more information that we can put with all the other small bits of information we have to start forming a better picture of how Totalcare is operating.

I will speak again to close the debate, but I am happy to support Mr Smyth's amendment in that it will remove the need to have the commercial-in-confidence debate and still provide greater information to this Assembly to help clarify the picture on Totalcare's operations.

Mr Smyth's amendment agreed to.

MS TUCKER (5.47): I wish to make a few points. I understand Ms Dundas' concern in putting forward her motion. I think that it is important that we understand exactly what is going on with Totalcare. I understand that her concern is that the company is not going well in the private sector and that the government, the public sector, may be subsidising the private contracts side of the business. That is a problem because it means that we may be facilitating unfair prices and so undercutting other local businesses.

Mr Quinlan did not want to go into the philosophical issues, but I will go into them to a point. There is a fundamental question that can be asked about why we have made Totalcare a government business enterprise or why it has to operate as a business. It is part of what the Liberal government did. There are real questions for me about what that has meant for the capacity of that organisation to deliver essential services and what it means to Totalcare in terms of being able to compete.

We want to see reasonable working conditions and so on for employees. I certainly support that. Totalcare is quite often at a disadvantage, given the absolutely scandalous conditions for workers in the private sector, which means obviously that the private providers can be at an advantage in terms of competing for business with Totalcare. I think the overall question of why essential services have to be delivered in a way that fits within a business model has to be addressed and I do not know why we have to just accept that.

I understand the concerns being raised through this motion and I think that they are reasonable, given that Totalcare works in the way that it does. In the past, this Assembly has overcome the tension between confidentiality and scrutiny in a number of ways. I can remember a couple of occasions with Mr Moore in the First Assembly. In the last Assembly as well we dealt with it by having papers made available to members in the Clerk's office.

There seems to be agreement that Mr Smyth's proposal could protect Totalcare from disclosing too much commercial information. I do not fully understand the argument. As I understand it, Mr Quinlan is saying that it is going to provide meaningless information. I am not quite sure why he was supporting this amendment, but it has got up. I will not go any further into that, but I will support the general motion because I think the intention is worthwhile.

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