Image for A Death In Interview Room 1

March 13, 2017

TASMANIA ~ The trout have been quiet, and there is no tale to tell, so Leon Compton casts out for his first radio interview of the day on Tasmania’s local political hour ...

Miles Hampton is the Chair of TasWater.  He joins us in the studio this morning.  Miles Hampton, good morning to you.

Compton’s voice reaches over Tasmania’s autumn airwaves, falling to towns like Pioneer in the north-east, where, hitherto, lead-contaminated drinking water drips from Ye Olde taps for those who are yet to receive from TasWater a rainwater tank, more than four years since the alert in 2012.

Good morning, Leon. Chairman Hampton speaks with a smooth voice. 

And thank you for coming in this morning, says Compton.

Compton begins: 

If this proposal by the State government can deliver a doubling in the speed of infrastructure improvements, and keep costs lower than you promised us in the studio in the latter part of last year, why wouldn’t that be a good thing for Tasmania?

Chairman Hampton, streaming live on webcam, blue eyes, clear as pools, peering through rimless spectacles:

... First, I’d just like to set the record straight ...

Reading from a written statement, Chairman Hampton stammers ...

In parliament last week, the Treasurer said that he had repeatedly told TasWater that he wanted faster progress.  The Treasurer said:

‘Since coming to government I have repeatedly made my concerns known to TasWater and its owners’.

Chairman Hampton tweeks the volume:

Well I am not sure who he told at TasWater.  Because he did not bother to tell even myself or our CEO Mike Brewster, that he had any concerns about the rate of progress in tackling the ageing infrastructure problems… 

Not.  Ever.  Not.  Once ...

Hampton’s eyes glint…  He has wounded Gutwein…  Chairman Hampton goes on:

And we have met with the Treasurer at least nine times since the Libs came to government in 2014.  I repeat ~ not once did he say that we were moving too slowly ... 

The Chairman strains:

His statement in parliament, that he told us of his concerns, is simply not true.

Further, we have received nothing in writing from the Treasurer to state his dissatisfaction with our progress ...

Compton is more silent than he has ever been in the interview room ...

Chairman Hampton ends it:

In my view, this is a political stunt ~ full stop.

The Treasurer, a regular listener to this radio broadcast hour, gasps helplessly from his Launceston Liberal Party office chair ...

And Chairman Hampton’s verbalised full stop has set a precedent for Tasmanian listeners today, so they get the idea that this might be the end ... 

As in: THE END.

The credability of the Tasmania’s Treasurer, Mr. Peter Gutwein, has at last suffered a mortal wound. 

At the very least, this is the end of any chance that the Tasmanian Liberal Government will call an early election.  Of course, this act may also be the end of Premier Hodgman’s government.  If it were not terminal already.

At Pioneer, rocking chairs rock; and the folk wonder ...  But is this the end to lead-contaminated drinking water for us?

There was a death in Interview Room 1 today. 

-Tim Slade

Post Script

POISON PEN ~

In the days following, on March 15, Chairman Hampton and CEO Brewster signed a statutory declaration which stated that:
In a meeting with Mr Peter Gutwein (“the Treasurer”), when asked by me to provide support to address drinking water challenges in a number of small Tasmanian towns, the Treasurer advised that the government was not prepared to provide funding support and that the Treasurer considered the provision of water tanks an acceptable solution for some smaller towns.
In a subsequent meeting I advised the Treasurer that based on our learnings in regard to Pioneer and Mountain River, tanks were not considered to be an equitable and viable solution and that TasWater would look to find ways to provide the remaining towns with compliant reticulated drinking water. The Treasurer noted this advice but no support was offered to address the issue.
At no time in my meetings with the Treasurer, has he raised the issue of a water crisis or advised that Taswater’s ten year plan needs to be accelerated Our discussions were based on a proposal developed by TasWater which set out how we might address the key water and sewerage challenges facing us in a ten year timeframe.
I make this solemn declaration under the Oaths Act 2001 (Tas).

References:

1. ‘A Death In Emergency Room One’, a column about JFK’s assasination, by Jimmy Breslin.

2. SOUNDCLOUD, March 13, 2017: https://soundcloud.com/936-abc-hobart/taswater-chair-miles-hampton-questions-treasurers-statement-to-parliament

3. ‘TasWater executives sign legal papers disputing Treasurer’s claims on meetings’, ABC News, March 16, 2017.  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-15/taswater-executives-sign-documents-to-back-claims-in-gutwein-row/8356916

• TasWater: CEO Brewster To Conduct A Cost-Analysis For The Real-Time Reporting Of All Drinking Water Data

April 20, 2017

Under the watchful gaze of the Legislative Council’s newly formed Select Committee for the proposed takeover of TasWater, Mr Brewster, the CEO of TasWater, has promised that he will now execute a full cost-analysis of the policy for the real-time reporting of all drinking water data on TasWater’s website.

At long last, this decision, made by CEO Brewster on April 20, will allow for a fair and informed decision about whether or not TasWater should report in real-time.

The definition of ‘real-time’, as used by the Tasmanian Legislative Council in their 2016 decision in favour of the policy, is as follows:

‘As drinking water sample results return to TasWater, following periodic testing at the laboratory, the reporting of all items of data without unnecessary delay, and with the view that all data be reported on a consistent and timely basis. The intent of the definition of real time, to report all drinking water data without unnecessary delay, shall be applied at all times, and to the best of reasonable ability.’

In the lead-up to this decision by CEO Brewster, for a full cost-analysis of real-time data reporting, on April 13 he tentatively put a new offer on the table ~ full quarterly reporting of all drinking water data on TasWater’s website. 

CEO Brewster’s renewed engagement on the issue of data reporting will be welcomed by Tasmanians.

Presently, TasWater’s quarterly report is a one-page, traffic-light pictorial, with no data.  The present model is generally viewed by Tasmanians as an opaque response by TasWater, in reply to the 2015 motion of the Local Government Association of Tasmania (LGAT), for a more timely and open model for data reporting.

So the welcome news today for Tasmanians is that there are now two new options on the table:

a) Real-time reporting of all data

b) Quarterly reporting of all data

It is my hope that TasWater’s cost-analysis for each new option will be completed in quick time, and then, released to Tasmanians as public documents.

A cost-analysis will make it easier for Tasmanians to directly compare the merits of the new options, and it will encourage the 29 owner-councils to re-engage, with TasWater and with Tasmanians, to prove that they are capable of making fair and informed decisions.

Tasmanians look forward to free and positive communications with CEO Brewster, and the 29 owner-councils, from this day forth.

Tim Slade.

For your information, please read below, the four key e-mails written in recent negotiations with TasWater, the most recent, April 20, going back in time to February 20.

The following key stakeholders received a CC copy of these e-mails as we proceeded:

Ms Armitage MLC, Chair of the Legislative Council’s Select Committee for the proposed State takeover of TasWater;

Mr. Downie, Chairman of the Owners’ Representives Group (ORG) [representing the 29 owner-councils];

Mr. Gutwein, Minister for Local Government;

Tasmania’s 29 mayors;

Mr. Bacon MP (Labor);

Ms Dawkins MP (Greens);

MS Rattray MLC;

Chairman of TasWater, Mr. Hampton.

April 20, 2017.
Dear Tim,

I personally remain of the view that real-time data reporting as defined in your email places an unnecessary cost on TasWater and effectively its customers, and that quarterly publishing of all data would seem a sensible low-cost compromise.


Notwithstanding this position, in order to put the matter to bed I have asked for a formal analysis of the full cost of providing a system as per your email. Once I have that information I am happy to have a further discussion with TasWater’s owners about each of the alternatives.

Kind regards,
Michael Brewster
Chief Executive Officer

April 19, 2017.

Dear Mike,

Thank you for your letter of April 13 with your preliminary thoughts about your new idea for quarterly reporting, following the LGAT motion of 2015 (July) for the timely publication of all drinking water data.

I thank you for your renewed consideration with regard to data reporting, in the light of the issues we discussed in our meeting at Pioneer.

However, there are several previously discussed problems that need to restated in reply to your letter.

First, your stated reason for quarterly reporting (is this 3-6 month old data?), as opposed to the policy for real-time reporting, namely, cost, is incongruent with the now long-standing fact that TasWater have not employed a cost-analysis for real-time data.

This cost-analysis has been requested of TasWater by the LegCo in their 2016 (August) decision in favour of real-time reporting (Ms Rattray MLC).

The definition of ‘real-time’, as used by the LegCo, is as follows:

‘As drinking water sample results return to TasWater, following periodic testing at the laboratory, the reporting of all items of data without unnecessary delay and with the view that all data be reported on a consistent and timely basis. And for the intent of the definition of real time, to report all drinking water data without unnecessary delay, this shall be applied at all times, and to the best of reasonable ability.’

The LegCo further stated in parliament that, if TasWater wish to dispute Mr Taylor’s cost-analysis, then the LegCo would like to hear about this from TasWater. To the best of my knowledge, TasWater have not responded.

This cost analysis for real-time reporting was also requested of TasWater in a GBE in 2016 (Ms Hiscutt MLC).

Furthermore, it has been requested of TasWater by me on behalf of the Tasmanian Labor party (see speeches in parliament by Mr Bacon and Mr Green) and the Tasmanian Greens (see speech in parliament by Ms Dawkins).

TasWater has so far not refuted the independent cost-analysis for real-time data reporting by Mr Daniel Taylor, which quoted a one-off start-up cost of $20K, and an annual cost of $12K.

As such, it is reasonable to say, if I may say so politely, that your comments below, Mike, from your last letter, are lacking in foundation.

You wrote:

’ ...a sensible alternative [to real-time] that provides the level of transparency….without imposing an unnecessary cost and administration burden on the organisation and ultimately the customer base.’

If this is your primary justification against real-time data reporting, then in the interests of proper process, you will be beholden to provide a cost analysis for real-time data, just as you are doing at present for your new idea for full quarterly reporting.

I would remind TasWater that the LGAT motion for data reporting was passed a long time ago now, nearly two years ago, in 2015 (July), and that a satisfactory model has not been forthcoming from TasWater. ORG’s members have not been consulted. This does not sound to me like a reasonable application to the task.

You have acknowledged to me that you did not take the present no-data, pictorial model, back to the 29 councils for input or approval, so it is also evident that you have not sought the opinion of the 29 owner-members about real-time reporting, or the need, and requests for, a cost-analysis ~ and when / if you do, it important that this consultation should include all councillors from within each council, and not just with the mayors.

Mike, I would like to say, as politely as I can, and with respect to you, that this is a rather conspicuous weight of evidence that you have not completed a cost-analysis for this policy, as you should.

And all of this within the context of an environment, as you and Chairman Hampton stated publically last month, in signed statutory declarations, wherein the responsible Minister, Mr Gutwein, made major false representations to the Tasmanian people about his representations to TasWater.

Mike, what is the actual difference in cost between the application of these two policies for data reporting? Real-time versus Quarterly?

I request that the Chairman of ORG, Mr Downie, see to it that, on behalf of members, he formally request of TasWater a cost-analysis for real-time reporting of all data be completed by TasWater, prior to any further actions.

Mike, I thank you for your renewed engagement on this issue.

I implore you to openly follow the correct process, and I am sure we will then find a cost-efficient and representative outcome for the Tasmanian people in the interests of data transparency.

Thanks again.
Best wishes to you.

Sincerely,

Tim.

Tim Slade
Pioneer, Tasmania

April 13, 2017.

Dear Tim,

I have been thinking some more about a sensible alternative that provides the level of transparency you and others are looking for without imposing an unnecessary cost and administration burden on the organisation and ultimately the customer base.

I have therefore asked the team to investigate the feasibility of publishing all sample data results on our website on a quarterly basis along with the traffic light summary. I acknowledge it doesn’t entirely give you what you are looking for but it does provide for full transparency.

I am yet to receive feedback from the team on what is actually involved in doing this but on the face of it, I believe it to be a sensible halfway house.

Regards,
Mike
Michael Brewster
Chief Executive Officer

February 20, 2017.

Dear Mike,

I realise that today may be a busy day for you with the Minister for Local Government due to deliver a new document, but I wanted to touch base with you again after our extended conversation at the Pioneer meeting on February 2.

It was a useful conversation that we had. In the light of our discussion of the facts, you agreed to consider going back to the Board to ask that a cost-analysis be done for the policy of real-time reporting of data.

May I please ask you to share your thoughts with me?

You said that you were unsure if data for lead (Pb) had been collected at Pioneer before 2012, so I have attached again for you here the graph of Pioneer’s data for lead (Pb) for the years 2009 - 2012. These were the three years before the alert. There were several test results exceeding the health guidelines for lead (Pb).

As I mentioned to you again in our conversation, in relation to this period at Pioneer, 2009 -2012, your Water Quality Officer, Mr. Stapleton, said to me, on March 11, 2016:

‘That wouldn’t happen now. I’m here now.’

I hope you can understand that the residents of Pioneer would have liked to have known about this data at the time. A policy of real-time data reporting would satisfy.

You also said to me that you probably should have selected a more suitable group of members for the Water Quality Group, rather than asking for volunteers. This group of volunteers, three General Managers, approved the one-page pictorial (no data) quarterly model, designed by Mr Stapleton. You also acknowledged that the results of this Group were not taken back to the 29 councils for input and agreement before it was activated on TasWater’s website last year. (Nor did the 29 councils approach TasWater).

In light of all of these circumstances, in concert with the support of the Legislative Council, the Tasmanian Labor Party, the Tasmanian Greens, LGAT, via their 2015 motion, and the Tasmanian Liberal Government, on condition that the 29 councils agree (see Peter Gutwein’s letter to Tania Rattray MLC), I remain hopeful that we can progress this issue without fanfare, to a standard consistent with the definition of real-time as used in the deliberations of the Legislative Council, and with minimal expense, as per the independent cost-analysis of Mr. Daniel Taylor, senior computer engineer ~ at $12k per annum, after a one-off start-up of $20K ~ also cited by the Legislative Council.


Thank you Mike for our extended conversation after the Pioneer meeting. It was a good one for us to have.

I hope that our constructive communications may continue.

Good luck to you.

Sincerely,

Tim.

Tim Slade
Pioneer, Tasmania