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Water And Sewerage Corporation Amendment (Crown Involvement Facilitation) Bill 2018

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 23 August 2018

Tags: TasWater, Local Government

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, the Greens support the intent of this bill to provide the legal machinery for councils to undertake the consultation and make decisions on approaching the next stage in the management of the part of the state's water and sewerage infrastructure that is the responsibility of local councils.

I agree with Mr O'Byrne, that it in no way implies that the Greens have a fixed position on the MOUs that are on the table. A number of councils are comfortable and support that approach; many others have questions that have not been answered. They have questions on the returns to council over the long term, the price paid for the Government's move into this space and the impact on rates.

I put on the record how enduring and disappointing the comments and lack of leadership by the Treasurer have been on this issue over the past 18 months. He has painted a picture of greedy councils that are in there for themselves and not in the best interests of the people they represent; councils that are trying to steal money from people and hoard money from TasWater while not putting in place the operational infrastructure TasWater needs to ensure clean and safe water in Tasmania.

It could not be further from the truth. The dividends that are returned to council have reduced substantially and will continue to reduce over the next 10 years, according to the model that is being proposed. Those dividends do not go into councillors' pockets. They go back into people's roadside rubbish collections. They go back into creating the parks and public open spaces that people use. They go back into patching roads and building new roads. They go back into supporting planning officers to provide advice to people about developments. They go back into all the good work that local councils do on behalf of and for their communities.

This has always been about politics for the Liberal Government. Following the attacks the Treasurer ended up with egg on his face because when the Auditor General delivered his report in November last year he made it clear that TasWater had inherited a large amount of work that needed to be done over a very short period of time and that progress on that work was significant and substantial.

Contrast that with what the Treasurer said when he talked about a TasWater takeover. He said Tasmania was in an emergency. There was a crisis. A failure of water and sewerage infrastructure management by TasWater. A failure to provide Tasmanians in some places with safe drinking water. It was an attack and it was pure politics. It was an attempt by the Liberals to distract from the mess that was 2017 for them in Government.

We know this was true because when the Treasurer made a direct attack on Miles Hampton in May last year, a ReachTEL poll had asked people how they would vote on the basis of the issue of TasWater. The Liberals were using it to whip up a sense of goodies and baddies. The truth is that the management of water infrastructure was run down for a long time by a lot of small councils because we have the widest range of water infrastructure and assets relative to every other state of Australia.

The Greens are not apologising for Tasmanians being able to have anything other than clean and safe potable water. TasWater appears to have done the job it needed to do when it took over. There are no boil water alerts and, despite what the Treasurer said, Tasmanians are drinking safe potable water. I went to South Australia during the winter break and I passed through Melbourne. Melbourne tap water is disgusting. It got better when I got to Adelaide. We really live in blessed circumstances in Tasmania.

The best thing the Treasurer and Government could do would be to provide leadership on big water infrastructure issues that remain unaddressed. Mr Gutwein, regarding Launceston you have consistently ignored the responsibility of the state government in putting some serious money on the table or in making an investment that could attract partnership investment from the federal government. It is the role of the state to look at these long-term infrastructure issues. There are a number you left languishing, Macquarie Point and Launceston in particular, whilst you have wasted time attacking TasWater for political purposes over the last 18 months.

We will, with the caveats I mentioned of not endorsing a particular outcome, support this legislation. The machinery is in place for councils to make their own decisions about what a suitable MOU might be.