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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (27 November) . . Page.. 4796 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

reason we need to take on private linen contracts. However, the long-term nature of these contracts also provides justification for endlessly deferring decisions about the future of private linen provisions.

We know that much of the linen equipment and the building housing the linen service is up to 30 years old. Some parts of the production line have recently needed replacement and most of the remaining equipment is very near the end of its economic life. I understand that the new ironing machine cost around $800,000. So decisions to extend the life of this oversized facility by replacing bits and pieces should not be made unthinkingly. I think that we really need to consider how much it costs to run linen services for the ACT government versus how much it costs to run linen services for the entire community and what impact that is having on the ACT business community that this government says it supports so strongly.

It appears that the government is endlessly deferring the hard decisions about when it is time to cut our losses, move the equipment on and make the laundry facility operate on a more appropriate scale. I hope that the government plans to do a full cost-benefit analysis, comparing the construction of a new laundry facility now with options for keeping the existing facility going for another couple of years or for five years or 10 years, with this analysis taking into account the full social impact and the full economic impact of what it is we are doing in linen services, because without this analysis it is impossible to make a sound decision about the future of the facility.

I was glad to learn that the income and expenditure from businesses formerly within Totalcare will now be separately identified in departmental annual reports. I would be very concerned if the losses ended up being buried within accounts of other departmental activities. However, because new private contracts will still be entered into, I fear that the Assembly will continue to be denied access to full information to enable it to make an informed judgment about whether public money is being used improperly to deliver services. I expect the commercial-in-confidence excuse will continue to get a workout.

In fact, when Mr Cornwell asked during the debate for more information the Treasurer interjected, "Ask the question on notice."I have asked a number of questions on notice about Totalcare and moved motions in this Assembly to try to get information about was happening in Totalcare and have always been hit with the answer that it is commercial-in-confidence, which means that we are being limited in the amount of information we can access, so the picture that we were able to develop of what was actually happening in Totalcare itself was limited.

I reiterate what I said in February when I moved a motion seeking to obtain more information on Totalcare's accounts: I want the Assembly to be satisfied that the decision to keep performing private sector contracts is financially, socially and environmentally sound. If this decision cannot be justified, it is the duty of the government to direct Totalcare to withdraw from this area of private sector operations. I believe that the comments I made in February are just as relevant now with the winding up of Totalcare. The Assembly needs full information on government activities that affect the budget bottom line and we are still waiting for that information.

MS TUCKER (11.20): Technically, this is a simple procedure: the Assembly needs to agree to Totalcare's assets, rights and liabilities being disposed of to the territory.

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