Image for Today’s Prize-Fight for Real-Time Reporting at TasWater ... VICTORY ...

First published March 29

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

In today’s early morning prize-fight, the Board of TasWater shaped-up to the proposed policy for real-time reporting of all drinking water data in Tasmania.

TasWater’s sting-like-a-bee punch cost for the proposed policy is $2K per year, per council, and a one-off start-up cost of $3K per council. 

Floating like a butterfly ~ TasWater’s Board of Directors, with a combined annual salary of $519, 694 ~ the Board is no less colourful for the fact that they are also the judges of today’s bout.  They are: Miles Hampton (Chairman), Nick Burrows, Sally Darke, Sibylle Krieger, Helen Locher, Vincent Kelly, and Peter Lewinsky.

Touching gloves for a fair fight, after thirty months of one-sided letter writing for the proposed policy, and with a piece of Pioneer lead (Pb) in each boxing glove, the Underdog waits to land a one-chance knock-out blow to TasWater on behalf of Tasmanians.

In the corner for the Underdog, Tania Rattray MLC has penned a letter to the Board as a sharp reminder (upper-cut) of the Legislative Council’s 2016 in-principle motion in support of the policy of real-time data reporting at TasWater.

Scott Bacon MP, the most popular member in Tasmania’s capital city, Hobart, has penned a letter to the Board (a Lower House pump to the solar plexus) in support of the policy, on behalf of the Tasmanian Labor Party.

Cassy O’Connor, leader of the Tasmanian Greens, considered by regular watchers of the parliament as a contender for the best prize-fighter in her own right, cheers for the Underdog, her Party the longest standing supporter of the proposed policy.

In an e-mail to Tim Slade from Doug Chipman, President of the Local Government Association of Tasmania (LGAT), representing the 29 owner councils ~ 2017, in reply to a public questionnaire during the Pembroke by-election ~ Mr. Chipman nods his new support for the policy.  For TasWater, Doug Chipman’s new support for the proposed policy is a quiet, yet eerie, presence, standing today in the corner for the Underdog. 

Meanwhile Pioneer is punch drunk after five years waiting for safe drinking water via individual rainwater tanks, in response to an alert for lead-contaminated drinking water in 2012.  At Pioneer the alert for lead (Pb) was belatedly called after a three-year theme of lead (Pb), data held within the private database of Ben Lomond Water (now, TasWater), with several results exceeding the 10 ug/L Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG) health limit.  A precautionary approach could have been applied by Ben Lomond Water, especially as there were decades of unknown lead data history at Pioneer, a factor which was given light weight in the Pioneer lead-contamination equation.

Today, the propect of a fair prize-fight was at last granted a venue and a time ... 

During today’s prize-fight, short of TasWater calling the Underdogs The Gorilla in Manila, it has been reported that at one point in proceedings there was a rough whisper of The Torn Ear of Pioneer.

The following are the main knuckle taps by Tim Slade, on behalf of the Underdog, in favour of the policy:

(1) This is an opportunity to dispel any and all public perception that TasWater is not timely, transparent or competent.  $2k per year, per council, and $3k as a one-off start-up, can be considered to be a reasonable cost to justify the introduction of the proposed policy. 

(2) A right-to-know issue for Tasmanians.  When costs are reasonable, and data has been double-checked, it is no longer reasonable to defend barriers to population-owned data and information.  TasWater as a modern organisation, responsive to changing community expectations in the digital age. 

(3) TasWater can play a broader role to support each Tasmanian’s awareness of personal health and environmental health.  A tool for public education, fostering a day-to-day relationship with the water we drink.  It will inform our broader life.  The proposed policy would foster community feedback, and hence, dynamic and conscientious future planning on behalf of all Tasmanians.  The benefits will be far-reaching and long-lasting for the Tasmanian community and for TasWater. 

(4) Adoption of the proposed policy will be an act of good faith for Tasmanians who have lived with Do Not Consume alerts, long-term.

(5) The proposed policy becomes a genuine point of difference between the council-owned model of TasWater and the GBE model of ownership.  The Board may adopt the proposed policy as a component of a fresh defence against a renewed bid for a hostile State takeover.  The State government has allowed politics to enter the arena of drinking water policy in Tasmania.  The Hodgman government’s opposition to the proposed policy ~ in addition to all other forms of real-time reporting, such as for political donations [eg. Federal Hotels], Right To Information requests, Treasury budget documents, and pre-election policies ~ the Hodgman government’s opposition to transparency can be framed by the Board of TasWater.  With the re-election of the State Hodgman government and their renewed push for a takeover of TasWater, endorsed by Brian Wightman of the Tasmanian Property Council as ‘a new mandate’ (ABC, March 7, 2018), the proposed policy should be considered. 

(6) An opportunity to offer new employment for one Tasmanian, for the minimal cost of approximately $2K per year, per council.  A bonus which is active as part of the proposed policy, this employee may be available for other tasks unrelated to the maintenance of the proposed policy.

(7) Tasmania can be a national leader in policy for drinking water, with Australia’s remaining states and territories free to follow. 

In consideration of the punches today, did the Board have an uninterrupted view of the bout, as judge and boxer?  And were they shadow-boxing, as they have done in the past?

If justice prevails today, TasWater will have taken these taps squarely on the chin… 

Now for one final punch by the Underdog for TasWater’s consideration:

It is logical to conclude that if improvements to policy as it relates to timely transparency, public education and right-to-know, are not progressed, then reference to the Integrity Commission, as suggested to me by the Ombudsman, becomes the unfortunate option to be considered in relation to the Pioneer question(s) ~

Should the alert for Pioneer have been called earlier? Why has every responsible person for the governance of TasWater so far ignored each and all formal written invitations to respond to this question, over many years, and on many occasions?

The Board of TasWater has the choice to throw in the towel today…

The Board of TasWater can shake hands on the proposed policy for the real-time reporting of all drinking water data.  This will be viewed as a new and welcome act of good faith, for all Tasmanians…

The final bell rings loud ... 

Tasmanians ~ THE WINNER IS…

[The footage (or a transcript) of today’s exhange will not be made public, deemed confidential by the Executive Assistant to the CEO of TasWater…]

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*Tim Slade is an MEAA member, and he is a resident of Pioneer, Tasmania.