MOTION - Appointment of a Select Committee - Government's Control of TasWater

Mrs Armitage (Launceston) - Mr President, I move -

That a select committee be appointed, with power to send for persons and papers, with leave to sit during any adjournment of the Council, and with leave to adjourn from place to place to inquire into and report upon the benefits and challenges associated with the Tasmanian Government's proposal to take control of TasWater under state Government ownership.

The select committee is to commence its work once draft legislation is available for public comment, and that Mr Armstrong, Mr Farrell, Mr Finch, Mr Gaffney, Ms Rattray, Mr Valentine and myself be of the committee.

I move the appointment of this committee because the issue of sewerage and water is extremely urgent, particularly in Launceston. The Government has proposed that it will take over running of sewerage and water, with a bill likely to come before parliament probably mid-to-late this year, whether it be August or September. It would be disappointing if we were to receive the bill in August or September and then have it go to committee, which would draw it out for several months, and go on for perhaps three, four, five months with a sessional committee or a select committee.

My proposal to have a select committee once the draft legislation is in place is to make sure that when the bill comes to us, we actually have something in train. The matter is urgent for Launceston. We have Third World conditions with our river. At flood times we have raw sewage entering the Tamar River. Time is of the essence. If we can have an effective and efficient select committee inquiry with relatively tight terms of reference, we will be a good way towards establishing the pros and cons of the Government's proposed takeover by the time the bill actually comes to our House, and hopefully make it much tighter and quicker in making a decision.

This will be more efficient than waiting for the bill to come before us and then sending it to committee. As I said, the matter, particularly in Launceston, is too important for any more delays and needs to be expedited if that is the outcome that is found. Many of you have probably heard the Government's radio advertisements - and I have heard them many times - saying each family will be over $500 better off per year under the Government's proposed takeover.

We need to look into these matters to ascertain whether that is fact or otherwise. We do need to make the facts certain. A select committee established early can determine that. I could go into a lot of things, but to do so would be to debate the pros and cons and the issues, so I am certainly not going to go there. My motion before the House is fairly straightforward - that we deal with this at an earlier time, and that we have a select committee started so that when the bill gets to us, we have something in train. We have started submissions, we can move along and any decision made, whether it be for or against the Government takeover, can actually precede it. In my particular area of Launceston, it is sorely needed very quickly. I would hope members would support a select committee inquiry.

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