Image for ALP’s attack ad claims on Pedder don’t stack up

The Labor Party faces the embarrassing prospect of having to pull it’s anti-Greens attack ad as a result of overstating by over 480% the contribution of the Lake Pedder scheme to the state’s electricity system.

Part of the ALP’s latest attack ad features the claim that the greens support “draining Lake Pedder which provides up to 1/3 of the state’s electricity”. And then, as if to add authenticity to the claim, the ad states “Nick McKim member ‘Drain and restore Lake Pedder 2010’, Greens election policy 2002”.

While McKim has confirmed that the party would like to drain Pedder without compromising the states electricity supply, the claim that Pedder supplies up to 1/3 of the state’s electricity is wrong. Hydro Tasmania itself states states that over the 11 years from 1998 through to 2008, the Gordon scheme contributed just 14% of the state’s average power output. However, that figure is for the entire Gordon scheme which comprises both Lake Gordon and the Pedder impoundment.

The Pedder impoundment was formed after the construction of the Scott’s Peak, Edgar and Serpentine dams. A small part of the stored water then flows through the McPartlan Pass canal into Lake Gordon before being run through the Gordon Power station turbines. The proposal for draining Lake Pedder involves restoring the natural flows of the Upper Huon River and the Serpentine River which were dammed but leaving the remainder of the Gordon scheme intact.

According to Hydro Tasmania, the Pedder impoundment provides approximately 41% of the water used by the Gordon Power Station.

The removal of the Pedder impoundment, on the Hydro’s own figures, would amount to 5.74% of the state’s electricity supply. Which is a long way short of the ALP’s claim of “up to 1/3 of the state’s electricity” would be removed if the Pedder scheme was drained.

How did the ALP stuff up?

Mid-afternoon on Saturday Tasmanian Times contacted ALP State Secretary, John Dowling, who authorised the advertisement, requesting copies of the material used to substantiate the “up to 1/3 of the state’s electricity” claim. At the time of publication, no substantiating material had been received.

How could the ALP have overestimated the contribution of the Pedder impoundment by over 480%?

The most likely explanation is that an ALP adviser mistakenly assumed that restoring Lake Pedder involved the removal of both the Pedder impoundment and the Gordon impoundment. Even so, on Hydro Tasmania’s figures the entire scheme’s long term average contribution is only 14% of the state’s electricity supply.

It may be that the ALP’s adviser then calculated the contribution of the scheme based on the total peak capacity of the scheme rather than its long-term average output. (As the Gordon power station has three 144 megawatt turbines it can generate a lot of power if necessary but, as the volume of stored water is limited, it can only due this for short periods. For this reason, the standard benchmark for the contribution of any power scheme to the system is the long-term average output.)

The ALP’s error is either the result of sloppy research or a deliberate exaggeration based on the assumption that no one would recognise the overstatement.

If the ad is supposed to bolster support for the notion that the ALP should be given four more years as majority government, it fails.

If after over a decade in government the ALP can’t even master basic calculations on data readily available on the Hydro’s website, it is likely that many of those who have viewed this ad will assume the other claims are equally exaggerated. For all the claims by David Bartlett that he wants to restore trust in Tasmania’s democracy, the exaggerated attack ad claims about the Lake Pedder scheme begs the question of why they should be trusted with running government again.

Time for a little more literacy and numeracy training in the Labor ranks, David.