Page 3169 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 22 August 2017
If it were a wholly Icon Water initiative or even a wholly ActewAGL initiative then there would be in the case of Icon absolute interest and in the case of ActewAGL considerable interest. But once it goes beyond that it does start to get into the realm of intervention from shareholders that is, frankly, above and beyond what is reasonable in the context of commercial entities undertaking business due diligence and making decisions on their commercial interests that are well beyond the remit of Icon Water.
Nevertheless, politics is politics. Everyone wants to have their nose in everyone else’s business. That will always be the way. It is what it is. I commend the Icon Water appropriation to the Assembly.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission—Part 1.14.
MR COE (Yerrabi—Leader of the Opposition) (6.49): The ICRC have responsibility for a wide range of regulatory and utility administrative matters. They provide an important service to the territory, regulating and advising the government on pricing and other matters for monopoly, near-monopoly and ministerially declared regulated industries. The ICRC further assists the government by offering advice on competitive neutrality complaints and government-regulated activities, and arbitrating infrastructure access disputes.
The determination and regulation of water prices is one of the most talked about functions of the ICRC in the Assembly, as we have just touched on. I wish to draw attention to one of the key objectives of the ICRC: when making a price direction in a regulated industry it is an objective to promote the efficient investment in, and efficient operation and use of regulated services for, the long-term interests of consumers in relation to price, quality, safety, reliability and security of the service.
With the rising cost of water and sewerage in the ACT, this objective has never been more important. It is interesting that the Chief Minister should challenge me to take this up with the ICRC. I will happily respond to his suggestion and seek a meeting with the Senior Commissioner, Mr Dimasi, to pass on my findings with regard to this investigation during estimates. If it were not for the estimates process we never would have found out about this new $300 million shared services contract. It would have just been a mystery. If it is a mystery to the public at large, I wonder if it has been in part a mystery to the ICRC as well, whether Icon Water have provided all the information about these shared services agreements.
To that end, I will make sure that the ICRC is fully across the details as they are public at this stage, noting that the government refuses to make public this $300 million contract. The government, which is all about openness, could, through the shareholders, make it known, at the AGM or at any other meeting of shareholders, that it is their intention that the board and the company should act in a far more transparent way. A demonstration of that would be, where possible—noting that parts might need to be redacted for commercial-in-confidence reasons—publishing a fair chunk of these two service agreements.