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Upgrading Taswater Infrastructure

Andrea Dawkins

Andrea Dawkins  -  Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Tags: Water, Sewerage


For the past three years, the Greens have been asking you, on behalf of the people of Launceston, for every town on a boil-water alert to play a constructive role in enabling TasWater to upgrade its infrastructure. For three years you refused to take any responsibility, refused to commit any funding and refused to acknowledge the seriousness of the problem. With the state election in sight, less than a fortnight ago you issued a threat to councils that the state would take over TasWater if it did not lift its game. Yesterday the Premier announced a takeover, much to the surprise of TasWater and its council owners.

Members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.

Ms DAWKINS - Minister, you were promising to deliver all the upgrades in half the time but respected local government leaders, such as Doug Chipman and David Downie are clearly struggling to believe you. TasWater chair, Miles Hampton, says that the timetable is simply not achievable -

Members interjecting.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. It is very hard to hear Ms Dawkins deliver her question. If we could hear her in silence that would be good. It is an important question. Can you read that last bit again about Miles Hampton?

Madam SPEAKER - Order. You do not take direction from a member of the House, only from the Speaker. I had just called Government members to order. The member will resume asking her question. She can go back a few lines if she would like to. The member for Denison does not direct what happens in this House nor does any other member.

Ms DAWKINS - Miles Hampton said that the timetable is simply not achievable. Why don't you confess now that there is no way the timetable is achievable and you were raising false hope among Tasmanians, like in my own community in Launceston, who are fed up with putting up with third-world water and sewerage?

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for that question. What needs to be clarified first is: do you want the job done? If you want the job done, the member should explain why, when she sat around the table of a council which was major shareholder of TasWater, she never raised this matter once and she was an owner!

Opposition members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.

Mr GUTWEIN - Yesterday we announced that we would be taking control of TasWater. We will provide lower prices under state government ownership.

Ms Dawkins - How?

Mr GUTWEIN - There is going to be no need for rate increases, we made that perfectly clear. We will keep the councils whole, unlike what you said yesterday. Interestingly enough, you start off again this morning taking aim at a minister. When are you going to apologise for the mistake you made yesterday? You blundered out of this place with a media release and you have not retracted it yet, as far as I can see -

Madam SPEAKER - I will pull the minister up. It is easy to make allegations at someone but please do it through the Chair.

Mr GUTWEIN - Madam Speaker, through you, the Leader of the Opposition yesterday put out an erroneous statement in regard to a media release he made about the Government's intentions. To the best of my knowledge, he has not put out another press release correcting that.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. Standing Order 195 goes to relevance. The minister has been on his feet for almost a minute and not gone to the question at all.

Madam SPEAKER - The minister has more time than one minute to answer questions. If he wishes to use that to the best of his ability to answer the question and contextualise it, then he can continue.

Mr GUTWEIN - Madam Speaker, I am sure we will see a retraction from the Leader of the Opposition at some time today. I hope he would do that.

Opposition members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.

Mr GUTWEIN - In regard to the question from the member for Bass, we announced yesterday that what we would do from 1 July next year, when we have taken over the corporation, is that we would complete the remainder of TasWater's $1.5 billion program over five years. They have capacity in their balance sheet. That is well understood. They will be able to borrow at a lower rate of funds from the state Government to get it done -

Opposition members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order. Members are complaining one minute that the minister is not answering the question and then, when he is attempting to answer the question, you are yelling at him and no-one can hear what he is saying. The minister will be heard.

Mr GUTWEIN - Madam Speaker, I know this is a concept that is foreign to the Greens. What is going to occur is that there will be increased investment and jobs will be created.

Ms O'Connor - We have been asking you to do that for three years.

Mr GUTWEIN - You have been asking for it. Now that we have delivered it, you do not want it.

Opposition members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order. Order! I do not want to start ejecting members but I will to get the House under control.

Mr GUTWEIN - Madam Speaker, now that the Government has announced it is going to get the job done it is clear that the Greens do not want the job done.

Ms O'Connor - That is a load of rubbish.

Mr GUTWEIN - The point that was just made by the leader of the Greens a moment ago was 'we have been asking for you to do this for three years'. Well, you should be cheering the fact that we are actually going to deliver it! TasWater has the balance sheet capacity. They will be able to borrow at a lower rate of funds. We will bring the resources of government to bear if need be. At this time, it is not envisaged that it will be needed. Importantly, we will get the job done sooner. It will create investment and it will create jobs.