November 15, 2015. 2.44 p.m.
Ms FORREST question to LEADER of the GOVERNMENT in the LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL, Dr GOODWIN
Mr President, this is the supplementary question to the question I asked yesterday which was not fully answered by the Leader.
It was in relation to people's homes being lost to fire, flood or storm damage and those people being required to pay the TasWater service fee. I asked whether consideration would be given to people experiencing financial hardship, to have the legislation amended to enable TasWater to show further discretion in that area. Will the Government consider changing the legislation to allow TasWater to make changes to the fixed service fees which TasWater claim they need to enable them to take such action?
[ ANSWER ]
Mr President, I thank the honourable member for Murchison for her supplementary question.
The Government has no intention to amend the act to enable TasWater to change service charges. There is sufficient flexibility in the current legislative framework for TasWater to develop hardship arrangements that can be applied on a case-by-case basis. The current legislative framework does not prohibit TasWater from reducing the service charge that would otherwise apply to a customer and absorb the cost. The price determination, which sets the amount of a customer service charge, is the maximum price. I am advised there is nothing stopping TasWater from charging below that level, if it so chooses.
TasWater has a hardship policy that states charges may be deferred, or payment plans set up, for those assessed to be in financial hardship. The current hardship policy is designed to allow for a variety of cases, including, for example, hardship resulting from a loss of a home to fire or flood, to be assessed for assistance. TasWater's hardship policy has been approved by the Economic Regulator.
As an example of the flexibility of the pricing framework, TasWater's own website states it may, on application, provide discounts under certain circumstances, including to those using kidney dialysis machines in their homes, and customers who register high water usage due to concealed leaks. The decision for TasWater to reduce or defer charges in particular circumstances, or defer charges until circumstances of financial hardship have passed, is one for TasWater, its board, and ultimately, its local council owners.Go Back