Legal slip strengthens case to remove Minister Gutwein from local government portfolio

TASMANIA’S longest-serving Mayor says the failure of Treasurer Peter Gutwein to provide financial modelling, proper planning and a legal basis for his proposed takeover of TasWater has strengthened the case for his removal from the local government portfolio.

Brighton Mayor Tony Foster said the legal doubts raised by TasWater yesterday after receiving advice from senior counsel, following on from the overwhelming rejection of the Government’s TasWater takeover bid by owner councils, had made Mr Gutwein’s position as Minister untenable.Cr Foster said the entire issue was looking more and more like gross mismanagement and the Minister had to take responsibility.

“The Treasurer has failed to negotiate, failed to provide any facts to support his extravagant claims and failed to give any real detail of how he would upgrade water and sewerage infrastructure,” he said.

“Instead, he has resorted to misinformation, wild claims and assumptions, browbeating and intimidation.

“This has all the hallmarks of failure and it is time for Premier Will Hodgman to step in and remove Mr Gutwein as Minister for Local Government.”

Cr Foster said he believed Mr Gutwein no longer enjoyed the confidence or respect of local government and as such, it was time for him to go.

“His abrasive, and at times, abusive conduct does not foster good relations between these two important tiers of government and his TasWater debacle is the latest demonstration of his inability to seek appropriate professional advice and to consult and work with others to achieve the best outcome for the community,” Cr Foster said.

“I believe that increasingly councils will find it difficult to work with Mr Gutwein, given the decision taken the May 11 meeting and now this professional advice questioning the legality of his TasWater takeover plan.

“Unfortunately, Mr Gutwein would rather dictate than consult and his bullying and resorting to personal abuse is unacceptable.

“His personal attack last month on respected TasWater Chairman Miles Hampton, made under the protection of Parliamentary Privilege, was nothing short of a disgrace and this alone is enough to warrant his removal as Minister.

“It is a sad state of affairs when a Minister of the Crown has to stoop so low and personally abuse someone who has given so much to public and private organisations in Tasmania.

Cr Foster said while TasWater and an increasing number of councils had expressed criticism and questioned the Government’s plan to take over the water and sewerage business, none had engaged in personal abuse as had Mr Gutwein.

“It is time for a circuit breaker and that should be the removal of Mr Gutwein as Minister for Local Government to enable the resumption of productive and harmonious relations between councils and the State Government.”