TCT response to Property Council push-polling on TasWater take-over

Letter to the Editor
The Mercury

The Property Council's Brian Wightman has proclaimed majority support for the Government's take-over of TasWater (Mercury, 13 May 2017). But the question people were asked in the ReachTel survey is both inaccurate and biased.

50.6% or respondents answered yes to the question: 'It is local council who owns and operates TasWater. The State Government wants to take control of TasWater so there is accountability, do you support the this move?'

It is not true to say that local council owns and operates TasWater. This seems designed to play on peoples general disapproval of councils, especially where their decisions effect cost of living. 

TasWater's day-to-day operations are the responsibility of staff under a CEO, independent from direct council control. The strategic direction and governance of TasWater is shared by two bodies which make political interference very difficult. There is the Owners Representative Group, which is made up of the Council Mayors, and the non-council expertise based Board of Management. The independent Office of the Tasmanian Economic Regulator has important responsibilities including, critically, approving water and sewerage charges.

Furthermore, answers would be biased by the question including a reference to the government's claim (which many dispute) that it intends to provide greater "accountability" through its takeover.

Reachtel surveys should always be published with the caveat that they are done through phoning landline numbers and that this method, unless adjusted for, will result in a unrepresentative sample of respondents. Phone polling is likely to lead to a greater proportion of older people being contacted than are represented in the general population. Given the poll results this is very significant. The results found that people aged 18-34 were much less likely to support the state government takeover, 33.3%, verses the average of 50.6%. Just how many 18-34 year-olds were surveyed?

Peter McGlone
Tasmanian Conservation Trust

Full results of the Property Council's survey: