Ratepayers should be told how much Planning Minister Peter Gutwein’s Government Business Enterprise (GBE) would cost them, said Peter Coad, former mayor of Huon Valley Council today.
Mr Coad described Mr Gutwein’s claim that he would deliver upgraded water and sewerage assets in half the time and less cost than TasWater’s present program was nothing more than a pie-in-the-sky promise as a State election approached.
In fact, he said, Tasmanians had not received cheaper electricity, and State Government charges had grown during Mr Gutwein’s time at the helm.
By contrast, said Mr Coad, the council-owned TasWater had delivered on its promises and looked on target to have all boiled-water alerts lifted by the time of the government’s proposed takeover.
A GBE, he said, took a lot of time to establish and lots of taxpayers’ money, whereas TasWater was already well established and controlled by a highly professional industry board led by one of Tasmania’s most respect business leaders, Miles Hampton.
Mr Coad said Minister Gutwein was disappointed with TasWater for not funding his proposal for the Macquarie Point sewerage relocation.
“If the minister wanted particular sewerage and water infrastructure, then the State Government should have called for tenders and then paid for the work, rather than expecting local communities to fund his agenda,” he said.
Mr Coad said years of mismanagement by the Government of Forestry Tasmania had resulted in the community having little confidence that Mr Gutwein’s proposed new arrangements would end up any different to past experiences.
Mr Gutwein, he said, had already foreshadowed seeking interstate labour, and using Hydro Tasmania and Irrigation Tasmania to “pitch in” on planned infrastructure works.
“The questions there,” he said, “were, at what cost, who pays, and is the imported labour available?”
The minister claimed he had independent support for his plan, said Mr Coad.
“The fact is, when the construction industry is overheated, most companies quote inflated prices and import labour to do the work.
“Those organisations that will possibly get this work would naturally show support for the minister’s plan because they would expect to benefit from it.”
Mr Coad said the minister was seeking to personally take control of more than two billion dollars of ratepayer’s assets on a promise to give back to ratepayers 50 per cent of the profits.
“The State Government, in order to support their political agendas, should stop taking money out of communities that can least afford it,” he said.
“The minister’s plan for ‘profit’ should not be at the expense of ratepayers. Mr Gutwein needs to show cause as to why he feels it would be justified for him to take control of, and use, community assets as a cash-cow.”
• Miles Hampton, TasWater: TasWater takeover legislation defies belief The State Government’s draft legislation to takeover TasWater is ill-conceived and appears nothing short of an attempt to intimidate the owners and pervert due process. The Chairman of TasWater Miles Hampton says the draft legislation is designed to ensure that neither TasWater nor its current owners, the 29 Tasmanian councils, can initiate a legal action to challenge the takeover. Mr Hampton said the draft Bill gives the State Government the power to determine that any expenses incurred by TasWater subsequent to the introduction of the legislation into Parliament can be deemed by the Government to be ‘unreasonable’ and by doing so, enable the Government to reduce its payment obligations to councils. “This defies belief. It is not only a denial of natural justice, but also appears a blatant attempt to circumvent the obligation of directors to protect the interest of shareholders,” he said. “Having failed to make public its own legal advice, the Government is now taking unprecedented action, seeking to impose a significant risk on councils should TasWater quite properly initiate a legal challenge …