Page 3180 - Week 10 - Thursday, 15 August 2013
organisation insolvent. If they say tomorrow that ACTEW cannot charge for water anymore, that would send the organisation broke. There is no doubting that. That would be theoretically within the power of the ICRC.
I do not think they will do that because part of their requirements in terms of setting prices for the organisation is to ensure that it does not become insolvent. But to suggest that in any way the government or the shareholders have some magic power to turn the organisation insolvent is just ridiculous, given that all of the policy levers—the pricing, the capital expenditure, everything—are regulated by the ICRC. It is simply a ridiculous proposition. So that needs to be put to bed tonight.
In relation to the timing of the completion of the audit process and the determination as to whether there will be or will not be an impairment of assets, that may not be concluded by the end of this calendar month. It will depend, of course, on independent authorities outside my control. I will await the outcome and, when I have the information, the Assembly and the public will be updated accordingly.
In relation to what we are actually discussing this evening, the appropriation to ACTEW, that actually relates to concessions. It is a worthy appropriation because it goes to assist low income households with their utility bills, and it should be commended.
MR HANSON (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (7.53): The Treasurer has raised a number of issues in relation to ACTEW and I would like to do likewise. There has been much said about ACTEW over the course of this year, and Mr Smyth canvassed that well—the issues with the general manager’s salary, the ongoing litigation about the costs and the overrun in the dam, the issues with the ICRC and the series of reviews that are now occurring into ACTEW, its structure and other issues.
We repeat our call for a full performance audit of ACTEW, because what we are seeing from the government is an ad hoc approach to looking at ACTEW. It seems that they want to look at everything but the dam.
Let us be very clear about what happened with the dam, Madam Speaker; indeed you would be aware of many of these issues yourself. In 2007-08, in the lead-up to the territory election, the Chief Minister at the time, Jon Stanhope, and the Labor Party went out publicly on numerous occasions—and this was at the height of the drought—and said to the Canberra public, “We’re going to build you a dam and it will cost you $145 million.” It became a hot election issue. There is no doubt that this was a significant issue for our community at the time. There was much debate in this place and in the community. Jon Stanhope said, “The Labor Party’s solution is that we’re going to build you a dam for $145 million.”
ACTEW then went out; I do not recall how many tens of thousands of dollars were spent on the advertising campaign, but many tens of thousands of dollars were spent on the campaign, advertising what Jon Stanhope had been saying: “There’s going to be a dam here.” So in the lead-up to an election ACTEW was essentially advertising something that the Labor Party was pushing.