Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (27 November) . . Page.. 4797 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
Essentially, that means that we are agreeing to wind up what has been a costly experiment in trying to make government services behave as if they were private companies.
The work that will flow from here is not simple. This is the first time that a territory-owned corporation has been wound up and I understand that it will take some time to work through the necessary steps in the Corporations Law. During the briefing on this motion, after debate was adjourned in August, it was indicated that the process could take around two years.
During this winding up and transfer time we do need to be sure that the work will continue to be done and that the workers will be looked after. Early on it seemed that some jobs may be lost. The opposition has asked questions on these points this year, suggesting that 150 people will be sacked. The government has since given a clear commitment that no-one involved will lose their jobs involuntarily. Voluntary redundancy packages will be offered at the time the business units are transferred back into the public service, but this may be some time away.
The motivation for moving away from this structure is partly ideological, an ideology which the Greens support. This is about decisions on how public services should be run. Totalcare's core business, if you like, is about ensuring that hospital linen is clean, dealing with waste and urban services, and ensuring that other assets, et cetera, are maintained as public services. Totalcare as a corporate entity is losing money.
Savings are expected to come from the cost of running the statutory authority required of a territory-owned corporation and the cost associated with the Corporations Law. The crux of the problem appears to be that, as a territory-owned corporation, Totalcare was, properly, required to meet additional standards of probity and accountability and could be held to account for its environmental and social performance. At the same time, it was to be in competition with private businesses operating without these goals. This competition was unfair for Totalcare.
Ms Dundas raised a campaign on the cross-subsidisation between parts of the enterprise where the ACT government was the client and parts where others were the client on the basis that it was unfair to the existing private businesses which could have competed and that it prevented new players from coming into that market. However, I think that the answer really should be about making all activities accountable for their impact and costs on society and the environment equally. I think that it is of concern that you can have higher standards being seen as a problem.
However, in this case, part of the work done will be brought back entirely within the fold of the public service. This means of winding up Totalcare as a corporation ensures that we maintain public ownership. I hope that it will also mean that the apparent tension between corporation goals of maximising profit and public service goals of equity, environmental responsibility, industrial democracy and fairness will be more easily carried through in the way these functions are delivered.
MR SMYTH (Leader of the Opposition) (11.23): Mr Speaker, I think it will come as no surprise to members that the opposition is disappointed that this action is being taken. For a party that believes government should not be involved in providing services that