Treasurer Peter Gutwein’s apparent new spirit of compromise expressing a willingness to hear suggestions to win Legislative Council approval for his TasWater legislation is late in coming and difficult to believe.
TasWater Chairman Miles Hampton said from day one, Mr Gutwein said his intent to take over TasWater was a ‘full frontal assault’.
“It certainly has been a full frontal assault, with TasWater, its 800 plus staff, its management team, its Board and its owners all having been subjected to unwarranted and at times virulent criticism from a strident Treasurer who at all times has said he would brook no compromise,” Mr Hampton said.
“It seems he has now concluded that his legislation is struggling to gain support in the Upper House and at the last moment he volunteers that he is prepared to compromise and ‘consider’ amendments to his Bill.”
Mr Hampton said the legislation to takeover TasWater had been assessed in detail by three independent bodies – the Productivity Commission, the Tasmanian Audit Office and the Legislative Council Select Committee – and each had reported on the deficiencies of the State Government’s plan, the risks and inappropriateness of the proposed takeover.
“The only response from Treasurer Peter Gutwein is that these three expert bodies are wrong, but now he wants to hear suggestions,” Mr Hampton said.
“Well, it is not that simple to counter the findings of three independent expert bodies and particularly as the Legislative Council Select Committee correctly pointed out, there is no crisis in Tasmania’s water and sewerage services as claimed by the Government as the basis for its takeover.
“Further, the Government has no feasible plan, no business case, and a doubtful financial model, while TasWater has a sensible, engineering-based plan that is fully funded and we are already delivering on our commitments.
“These are the points we have made from the outset after Mr Gutwein first launched his no compromise, hostile takeover bid.
“Importantly, the Legislative Council Select Committee found that that there would be a significant cost from consolidated revenue to support a Government takeover of TasWater, with no short-term measurable savings as a result.
“At the same time, it confirmed that under TasWater, charges to Tasmanian residential customers for water and sewerage services are more than $300 a year below the national average.
“It also confirmed the sustainability of some Tasmanian councils would be threatened by the takeover forcing an increase in council rates from 2025.”
“The critical findings of the Legislative Council Select Committee followed a damning assessment of the Government’s takeover legislation from the Productivity Commission and a report from the Tasmanian Auditor General confirming TasWater’s strong progress and its achievements to benefit Tasmania.
Mr Hampton said that no comprise was possible -the takeover proposal and legislation were so bad and highly risky for Tasmania.
“There are no quarter, half or three-quarter measures. You are either taken over or you are not and the Government’s plan is bad legislation based on bad policy.
“I urge Members of the Legislative Council to reject the BiIl and not to consider any amendments as the legislation is simply beyond repair,” Mr Hampton said.