The government has been accused of starving TasWater of financial assistance for three years and picking them out at the last minute as easy enemy before the state election.
Legislation to make the council-owned entity a state-run government business enterprise was debated for the first time in Parliament on Tuesday.
The opposition parties argued that the takeover was part of an election ploy to make up for a term of inaction on the state’s water and sewerage issues.
But government members argued that TasWater had not improved the state’s ongoing water and sewerage issues as quickly as it could have done.
Treasurer Peter Gutwein said TasWater’s organisational structure was a proven failure, and performance scrutiny and regulatory compliance was lacking under the arrangement.
He said the company remained behind its interstate counterparts in environmental performance measures.
Mr Gutwein said councils had received $207 million in dividends – money that could have been spent on infrastructure investment.
“It all goes to show that local government has received the benefits of ownership but not assumed the responsibility of ownership,” he said
Mr Gutwein said no employee will lose their jobs through the takeover.
Opposition finance spokesman Scott Bacon derided Mr Gutwein’s pitch as the peddling of a car salesman.
He said the reform was a smokescreen to make it appear as if the government had tackled Tasmania’s failing water and sewerage infrastructure during its first term.
Mr Bacon said TasWater had asked the government for funding to improve its assets and water quality for three years.
These requests were deemed unnecessary by the government at the time as it believed TasWater was performing well, he said
“(The Treasurer) was begged for help repeatedly by local government and repeatedly by TasWater and he has done absolutely nothing to move that forward,” Mr Bacon said.
“He has categorically failed to mount the case for case beyond a few PowerPoint presentations.”
Greens’ water spokeswoman Andrea Dawkins said the takeover gave the government of the day the ability to pork-barrel on infrastructure in marginal electorates through the power to intervene and make ministerial directions.
Mr Gutwein said the power of direction clause in the legislation ensured low prices, quality control, an investment program progressed within an acceptable timeline.
Debate continues on Wednesday.