Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Bob Hawkins

Gutwein’s TasWater asset grab would hurt ratepayers, says Huon’s former mayor

Councils should resist the State Government’s grab for TasWater’s valuable assets, said former Huon Valley mayor Peter Coad today.

He also said it might even be illegal, under the Local Government Act, for councils to be forced to hand over their sewerage and water assets, valued at $2 billion, to State Government control.

“These assets have been paid for by ratepayers and managed by local councils over many years,” he said.

“The formation of TasWater was a positive and constructive way of managing those assets on behalf of councils, an arrangement that had the full support of the State Government at the time of its establishment.

“However, the move now by Local Government Minister and Treasurer Peter Gutwein to take control of TasWater’s assets has many potential dangers.”

For example, said Mr Coad, the dangers can be gauged by the failure of successive state governments to manage and build infrastructure; to manage health sector assets; and to manage Hydro Tasmania.

“If the government cannot manage these assets effectively and efficiently over the long term, it is unlikely that it could protect the people’s investment in TasWater, or from the possibility of government selling the assets to the private sector?

“Sale of TasWater’s assets to the private sector,” he said, “would help the Treasurer to reduce state debt by selling those assets, but the question then would be, what would ratepayers be paying for sewerage and water services under a profit-driven private sector that would not be accountable to ratepayers, councils or, possibly, even the State Government?”

Mr Coad said water and sewerage assets worth billions of dollars should not be taken over by government without substantial guaranteed financial returns, in both the short and long term.

He said: “Minister Gutwein has been allowed by his government to launch his TasWater takeover proposal without any evidence of a long-term plan to ensure substantial returns to ratepayers for their assets. Nor have questions about the future of those assets been addressed.”

Reiterating that TasWater’s assets are owned by ratepayers through Tasmania, Mr Coad said: “They should not be relinquished without the support of all councils and ratepayers. It is bit like giving your house to a government on a promise of free rent and services in the first year, then — just like a mortgage — find yourself repaying substantial borrowings way into the future.”

Mr Coad said: “Most Tasmanians know how our political system works, so the less government interference in our lives the better.”

He said he believed the Gutwein proposal would require substantial legislative changes, which could and should be subjected to assessment and legal challenge by councils.

Councils should also take action against the State Government for damages incurred to TasWater’s reputation, he said.

“TasWater, a highly efficient and effective organisation has represented the interests of ratepayers in accordance with the wishes of most councils throughout the state.

“The Minister’s attack on TasWater has possibly seriously damaged the reputation of that organisation and our ratepayers should demand compensation for that damage.”

Mr Coad said that, if the Minister had acted in the private sector in the way he has done in government, “I am sure some of the provisions of the Trades Practices Act would have been invoked by now”.

Councils, he said, had a very important responsibility to ensure that ambitious politicians and their aspirations were not allowed to prevail over the interests of ratepayers.

*Peter Coad is former mayor of Huon Valley Council.

Tim Slade to TasWater’s 29 Owner-Councils …

TasWater: Treasurer doesn’t understand the nuts and bolts – or the law

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Chris

    May 11, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    #8
    (RCH) retarded ham I, at least I can still think !,
    Arya still in love wiv the NDIS or are the Liebrals still right …of Tony Abbott.
    Congratulate them its like dysentry its inya genes.

  2. Pat Caplice

    May 11, 2017 at 2:24 am

    #4
    “Knowing the literature on public water treatment, chlorine, fluoride and aluminium.” Those vaccinations are a bit dodgy too eh Duncan!

  3. Robin Charles Halton

    May 11, 2017 at 2:14 am

    #3 Chris, stop the retarded spiel and focus on the article, please!

    Today the Local Government Association of Tasmania hosted the 29 councils to vote on the Tas Water issue.

    23 voted against the State government from taking over TasWater, 4 for and 2 abstained!

    Despite the vote, Minister Peter Gutwein remains firm that the government will take over TasWater!

    Just who are we to believe in the best interests in the provision public water and sewerage infrastructure!

    We already have 2 councils in suspension, none apart from Hobart City Council has appeared to show any interest in leading amalgamation talks!

    We also know the Brighton does not want to amalgamate at any cost, their Mayor Tony Foster has called for the sacking of Peter Gutwein.

    With insufficient information available on what could be the best move, who can we trust for a reasonable outcome.

    Mr Gutwein is not creating a good look for the Liberal government which is struggling to maintain public trust as new Labor leader Rebecca White is gaining ground and the loss of Independent Liberal MLC Tony Mulder to Labors Sarah Lovell at the weekend in the seat of Rumney.

    Where to now!

  4. TGC

    May 11, 2017 at 12:27 am

    #4 Let’s nationalise the banks.

  5. max

    May 10, 2017 at 10:46 pm

    At present my sewerage and water bill is higher than my rates. If the water and sewerage passes your house you have to pay even if you us not connected. Imagine if you dare, what some private enterprise could do to you if they bought this utility. Under the Liberal charter they would get rid of this utility and all other utilities it’s in their DNA. Psst Don’t trust Labor with this either

  6. Simon Warriner

    May 10, 2017 at 8:41 pm

    Perhaps the reason there is so little apparent public outrage is because our alleged journalistic fraternity are playing the matter with a dead bat.

    Now why would they do that?

  7. Duncan Charles Mills

    May 10, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    Are Tasmanians so apathetic that they do not care who owns their drinking water?

    Knowing the literature on public water treatment, chlorine, fluoride and aluminium. I cringe when I turn on the tap for a glass of water or shower it over my body. Sorry, bureaucratic blandishments dont cut it in the prevailing mendacious culture of public administration.

    All the opposition parties are missing in action on this issue. Labor and the Greens need to step up.

    There are issues of accountability for both cost and safety, the question is who can best manage these issues in a responsible manner?

    Is is good enough for Taswater not to have a real time water quality protocol with alerts published real time?

    What happens if someone accidentally overdoses Flouride, a documented neurotoxin?

    [Beggars the question as to whether it should be there at all?]

    There obviously are issue of accountability and responsibility here.

    The minister for health is also absent on this. A key factor in day to day health such as public water supply should have a legislated reporting protocol. Down to the detail of sms alerts and emergency autoshutdown.

    As to ownership: Can we trust state government not to privatise? On current facist performance, I think not. Water should never be privatised. To do so would deliver Tasmanians into the hands of a monopoly that could nominate their own salaries and wages, and extort or game whatever rent they choose. And of course hide behind the absurd, “commercial in confidence” blanket.

    Should not an issue as pivotal to every Tasmanian as water be the subject of a open responsible public enquiry?

  8. Chris

    May 10, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    Will the Whiner take over da water?
    Will the Whiner’s web sell da water to ANYONE to weigh up da budget?
    Will dey hemploy ex premyers to show dem de benefits of privatisation, cos there aint no one in Orstraya who can deny dat prices and profits go up under such Liebral and Lay Bore policies?
    Will der Kommonwelf Bank donate dare prophets over da last few years, a phew thousand million or so to hour budget, or like the theft of phone services fromus be in the hands of dare mates?
    Water way te go.

  9. Bob Hawkins

    May 10, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    For a state government that has achieved next to nothing of note in more than three years, it’s got a cheek suggesting it could do better than what TasWater is doing as a council-owned entity. Almost everything Peter Gutwein, as Treasurer and Local Government Minister, has turned his hand to has been a mess. Glenorchy Council is still a mess, and Huon Valley Council — in administration since late last year — is doing no more than limping on the spot (it lost yet another senior executive a few weeks back; and Gutwein’s handpicked commissioner has made it clear she has been told it’s not her job to go looking back through the files to find the source of the canker that has plagued HVC all of this century). Maybe James Boyce (‘Losing Streak’) should be called in to investigate. He seems to have a knack of nailing the baddies.

  10. john hayward

    May 10, 2017 at 11:54 am

    Since when does legality have anything to do with the powers of the Tas Govt?

    They have already demonstrated that they can dispose of public assets for their own purposes with no due process whatsoever. They take liberties with the law that have seen Trumpy turn orange with envy.

    Give Gutwein and the Abetz Party a fortnight to let the kerfuffle die off or be bought off and the public will forget all about it.

    John Hayward

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