Shadow Treasurer Rob Lucas has claimed evidence from the Chairman of ESCOSA Dr Pat Walsh to State Parliament’s Budget and Finance Committee directly contradicts key claims on water pricing made by Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis.
Mr Koutsantonis has for many months been rejecting claims made by former ESCOSA CEO Paul Kerin and former Commissioner Professor Richard Blandy that high water prices in South Australia were being caused by the Government overvaluing SA Water’s assets by up to $2 billion.
When challenged to justify their valuation of SA Water’s assets Mr Koutsantonis has claimed their reasons were publicly available through an annual transparency statement released by ESCOSA:
D.Bevan: You have also been asked to hand over the Treasurer methodology for working out the asset base for SA Water which drives up the price of water, when will you release that?
T.Koutsantonis: ESCOSA release that every year in a transparency statement and Mr Marshall knows that…
M.Abraham: But you’ve got your own regulator saying they’re vastly inflated, that they don’t bear any relation…
T.Koutsantonis: No, no, no we don’t have our own regulator saying it. We’ve got a political activist who’s resigned making a political statement saying that.
“However Dr Pat Walsh’s evidence to the Budget and Finance Committee earlier this week was that ‘we do not issue an annual transparency statement’, said Mr Lucas.
“It is clear the Chairman of the independent water pricing regulator has totally rejected this key claim by Mr Koutsantonis.
“The only possible explanations for Mr Koutsantonis’ erroneous claim appear to be either incompetence because he doesn’t understand water pricing policy or he deliberately concocted the story to get out of a difficult interview.
“Mr Koutsantonis needs to now explain why he made this erroneous claim but more importantly should reveal how he justifies the Government’s valuation of SA Water’s assets which has driven up water prices.
“Whilst Mr Koutsantonis has also been publicly attacking Dr Kerin’s reputation as a ‘political activist’ and ‘disgruntled former employee’, evidence from the Chairman supported Dr. Kerin’s essential criticism.
“Mr Nathan Petrus, Director of Consumer Protection and Pricing at ESCOSA, indicated in his evidence he had led a team of ESCOSA staff that had provided advice SA Water’s assets had been overvalued by about $2 billion which had led to increased water costs of up to $150 million per year.
“Mr Petrus indicated his team’s advice had been concluded in February 2014, just one month before the last State election.
“Will Mr Koutsantonis now also attack the current ESCOSA staff as ‘political activists’ or ‘disgruntled current employees?”