Wednesday 16 April 2008
WATER AND SEWERAGE CORPORATIONS BILL 2008 (No. 23)
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, my contribution will be brief because I am happy to defer to learned members with all the local government experience under the sun with many former mayors and former wardens here. Listening to those who have spoken already I have been able to gauge that the assessment that I have made, of what I have seen, is basically on the right track. But I am compelled to say that when I first viewed these two bills, I viewed them with suspicion. There seemed to be an atmosphere of undue haste. There were reservations in local government and, dare I say it, palpable distrust in the community of the Government's motives. Of course, it is the belief that governments have a duty to enable time for all proposed legislation to be put to voters, to the community, so that community opinion can be evaluated and taken into account. This process takes time; it is called consultation. Consultation is not just about informing a community, it is about listening to a community. If governments want their changes to be supported, they need to go through a process of education, discussion, consultation and listening. I know there was a comprehensive process of consultation with local government, but even that for some does not seem to have been enough.
All that said, the Treasurer has compensated us with a sensitive approach to concerns that have been raised in this Chamber with excellent briefings. I do not think anyone in this House can fail to admire the efforts that have been made by all concerned. I think we are now well-briefed on these two bills. Most of our questions have been answered, certainly mine have. I am inclined to support both of these bills, but I will leave my options open on subsequent legislation.
The Treasurer made it clear during our briefings that there is no link in this present legislation with a pipeline to supply the proposed Tamar pulp mill. On questioning during the briefing by you, Mr President, he made it quite clear that there was never a suggestion before that time that there was a link between the two and I am prepared to accept that. He has not ruled out such a link in subsequent legislation. I am hearing from many people with concerns about the Government's intentions for a pipeline and I think we have all been inundated today with e-mails about this late concern about this situation. I expect that legislation in the future is going to be somewhat controversial.
It is unfortunate that this issue has clouded a clear intention to do something at last about Tasmania's water supply and sewerage infrastructure problems. There is no doubt that water is a big issue here in Tasmania, even on an island which derives benefits from the roaring forties. What did you call it, member for Windermere?
Mr Dean - What was that?
Mrs Jamieson - A foxy old devil.
Mr FINCH - No, on the supply from the Glenorchy resident.
Mr Dean - He called it 'an inexhaustible supply'.
Mr FINCH - Even though we have inexhaustible supplies of water, it is a big issue. We have a much more reliable rainfall than almost anywhere else in this country. Sewerage services are an issue in more places in Tasmania than they are not.
Whilst I do support these bills, I would like to also briefly summarise some reservations of the West Tamar Council. Its manager is known to others here and he has had some criticisms of the process. He points to a lack of detailed information in regard to priority dividends to councils, project funding priority, tourism, residential, towns with boil water alerts et cetera, pricing impact on ratepayers and residents, time to review/analyse legislation - and I have referred to that - controls imposed by State Government through regulators, control and right of veto by Treasurer, impact on future sustainability of local government.
Those were the points made to me through a member of local government. We have drawn comfort from the Treasurer's answers in briefings. Many other concerns have been raised, including those of Senator Richard Colbeck, who has passed on representations to me and other members that he has received. I have a quote from Senator Colbeck's letter - and I know the member for Rowallan has already done that - and I would like it on record in respect of my Hansard contribution:
'The concerns raised with me centre around the fact that, as the new regional corporations are proposed to take over very significant assets currently held by local government, it is important that local people retain a strong voice in whatever the replacement structure might be, and that there be a reasonable separation of the new entities.'
Senator Colbeck continues:
'The Bill seems to unnecessarily centralise the management of water and sewerage, whilst at the same time disenfranchising the owners of the infrastructure.'
As I say, I quote those concerns only for the record.
The Treasurer's efforts to elaborate on these two rather complicated bills have, I think, engendered trust among us and I therefore am inclined to support the bill.