Libs snub requests for TasWater responses

BRIGHTON Council’s request for the views of local MPs on the proposed State Government takeover of TasWater has been ignored by Liberal Members in Lyons.

Brighton Council wrote to all Lyons Members of State Parliament as well as the Legislative Council Member for Derwent, seeking their views before it considered its position on the proposed takeover of the water and sewerage corporation.The Labor Members, including new Opposition Leader Rebecca White, responded outlining the party’s policy for TasWater to remain in local government ownership and for a future Labor Government to fund major infrastructure works.

Lyons’ three Liberal Members, Ministers Rene Hidding and Guy Barnett and Chairman of Committees, Mark Shelton did not respond.

Mayor Tony Foster said it was disappointing that the local Liberal MPs failed to answer a legitimate request for information on an issue of crucial importance to the Brighton Council, its ratepayers and the community.

But Cr Foster said this wasn’t entirely surprising given Treasurer Peter Gutwein’s misinformation, misleading statements and threatening actions behind his cash grab for TasWater.

“So much for consultation. We simply wanted information to inform our Council and community on this major issue,” he said

“Like many in Tasmanians, the Brighton community is particularly sensitive to cost-of-living increases and with this knowledge, for more than 20 years, the Brighton Council has held annual rate increases at or below the rise in inflation.

“Following on from comments from the Treasurer, Brighton ratepayers have become increasingly concerned at the threatened takeover of TasWater by the State Government and the cost implications of this on both water and sewerage costs and local government revenue, and the ability to fund council services.”

Cr Foster said information from TasWater showed that the loss in TasWater distributions (dividends, loan guarantees and tax equivalent payments) to Councils over 10 years would amount to $200 million in today’s dollars.

“For Brighton Council, this would amount to a loss in revenue of more than $6 million – revenue that is used to fund vital roadworks, footpaths, parks and recreation, planning, community welfare and other necessary local government services.

“To help inform our Council and community, we asked our parliamentarians six key questions and advised that we would publish their responses in our local newspaper, Brighton Community News.”

The MPs were asked:

  1. Do you support the State Government takeover of the assets of TasWater from the current owner Councils?
  2. If TasWater is taken over by the State Government, should the owner Councils be paid fair compensation (i.e. current value approximately $2 billion), or be guaranteed ongoing distributions based on this value?
  3. TasWater has reported that 99 percent of Tasmanians currently have access to drinking water that meets Australian quality standards and through TasWater’s current upgrade program, the remaining one percent will have access within 18 months. Do you agree that this does not represent a “crisis” situation as claimed by the Treasurer?
  4. In other states and in Tasmania prior to 2009, State Governments contribute to funding water and sewerage infrastructure in small and regional communities. Do you support the State Government doing so in Tasmania?
  5. Do you believe that ratepayers in cities and towns that have already paid for their Council water and sewerage infrastructure handed over to TasWater, should now have to pay again to fund the same infrastructure in small regional centres and for coastal shack owners?
  6. TasWater has announced a fully-funded, statewide infrastructure upgrade program to be completed over 10 years. If the State Government wants that program implemented over a shorter timeframe, do you support the State Government contributing financially to speeding up that work?

Cr Foster said the failure of the Government MPs to respond was a slap in the face for Brighton residents.

“As local MPs, the Lyons Liberals, particularly Ministers Hidding and Barnett, have worked hard to assist Brighton Council and the community.

“But this good work has been undone by the dictatorial approach of Peter Gutwein and the failure of the Government’s Lyons MPs to even try to defend the Treasurer’s costly decision.

“At the same time, Labor’s Rebecca White, David Llewellyn and Craig Farrell responded collectively, detailing the party’s policy regarding TasWater and the upgrading of Tasmania’s water and sewerage infrastructure.

“That information is important to assist the community to understand the difference between the approaches of the two political parties and why the Brighton Council is determined unanimously to fight to keep TasWater in local government ownership,” Cr Foster said.