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Water and Sewerage Corporation Amendment (Crown Involvement Facilitation) Bill 2018 (No. 24)

August 28, 2018

[4.45 p.m.]

Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, ownership of TasWater has been an issue for many years.  I recall being an alderman - the member for Windermere was there at the same time - when this matter was first raised and the government wanted to take over water and sewerage.  It was felt the best course of action was for councils to have ownership.  In hindsight, that was not necessarily the best course of action, with the cost of water and sewerage escalating, on some occasions a similar amount to rates.  Some of our constituents struggle to pay these.  The Government has made a commitment with regard to pricing to keep prices down, and I note the comments made by the member for McIntyre.

 

Ms Rattray - I hope it does not happen.

 

Ms ARMITAGE - Yes, I hope it does not happen.  We cannot continue to put prices up.  People are struggling now; they cannot afford catch up and they cannot afford for it to be beyond reach.  Water and sewerage are essential services.  I am also pleased to see the cash injection the Government will be putting in, which will hopefully allow many projects to be undertaken, particularly with the issues we have in my electorate of Launceston.

 

This bill looks to provide a good outcome, provided the owner councils agree to the resolution at their meeting on the 27 September.  This bill will enable the councils to make that resolution.  Without this bill, it will not be possible for TasWater owners to make a valid resolution on these matters.  It is inconsistent with the Water and Sewerage Corporation Act, within which ownership is restricted to councils.  This is a procedural clause for councils to validly consider the Government to be a minority owner of TasWater. 

 

With regard to the timing, the resolutions need to be made after the enactment of this bill and before the introduction of a second bill, the Water and Sewerage Legislation (Corporate Governance and Pricing) Amendment Bill 2018.  We were told in briefings and it is noted in the bill this act has a limited shelf life and will be repealed one year after its commencement.

 

We were also advised the Government will not have a seat at the board but it will have one person on the selection panel for the board.  As for the ability of the parliament to have oversight at GBEs, we were told that it is hardwired into the letter of expectation that they must appear if requested, and that is really important.  As we are putting in so much public money, it is important there is some oversight by parliament.

 

Ms Rattray - That has been an issue in previous times - for example, 'What are we doing here?'  That will make it very clear that we are here.

 

Mr Finch - You might remember during the debate we had before that all those things were revealed.  The chair of the board, Miles Hampton, sat here listening and many revelations came out of the opportunity we had as members to express what was going on in our communities with regard to TasWater.

 

Ms ARMITAGE - As to the extent of minority ownership, the Government has committed to providing $20 million every year for 10 years to fund accelerated infrastructure, building up equity ownership to 10 per cent.  We were advised that it will not take any returns from TasWater.  I am sure that will be something that will resonate with the owner councils because they will be capping ownership at 10 per cent.

 

After 10 years the value should be around $2 billion, which would bring the government's proportion of ownership to around 10 per cent.  I support the bill.  I see it as a collaborative way to move forward and implementing it as a contract between the Government and TasWater is a good move.

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