TasWater’s chairman says the government’s takeover bid is designed to “intimidate councils”, one day before draft legislation is due to be tabled in Parliament.
On Monday, Miles Hampton raised concerns that the state government’s proposed TasWater takeover could lead to the establishment of a “government political enterprise”, and once again questioned the legality of the plans.
But Premier Will Hodgman said the legislation ensured there was a guaranteed revenue stream for councils.
Draft legislation for the takeover was released last month, revealing that all rights would be transferred to a new government business enterprise if it passed, taking responsibility away from TasWater and Tasmania’s 29 councils.
The government’s takeover proposal came after it said much of the state’s water and sewerage infrastructure was “in crisis”, but Mr Hampton said this was not the case.
He listed a number of concerns he had with the draft legislation, saying it was “illegal and unconstitutional”, that the government could choose which infrastructure projects it considered most important, and that neither TasWater or its current owners could initiate legal action to challenge the takeover.
Mr Hodgman said the legislation to establish TasWater as a GBE would deliver the best services to Tasmanians.
“What this allows us to do is not only provide the organisation with greater capacity to bring forward the infrastructure program, it will not come at the detriment of councils,” he said.
“We have taken legal advice and we have very strong grounds for what we are doing.”
Mr Hampton said the key aspect of concern for the organisation was the idea that the legislation could “intimidate councils to not take action”.
“If the takeover is not legal, it should not happen,” he said.
“It has no requirement for the operations of the new Water and Sewerage Corporation to be commercial, it does not require it to make a profit, it does not require it to make a return.
“There are not the normal checks and balances that exist for a government business enterprise, the Treasurer will be able to do with the new Water and Sewerage Corporation whatever he wants.”
Opposition leader Rebecca White said the Labor party intended to raise a number of issues it had with the bill and its “shortcomings” when Parliament resumed.
“If [the government] is so confident about this bill they should release the legal advice,” Ms White said.
She said the government had not allowed enough time for consultation on the bill, leaving only two weeks between the release of the draft legislation and the tabling of the bill.