Michelle Lensink

Water pricing - selective quoting

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before directing a question to the Minister for Water and the River Murray on the subject of the selective quoting of water statistics.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Last week in this place, we waited until 3 o'clock on Thursday for the release of the national performance report of urban water utilities for 2013-14. The minister referred to a metric, which is water consumption of 200 kilolitres per customer, which he states has SA Water having the ninth-lowest water and sewerage bills out of the 13 utilities.
I have had an opportunity to review that particular report as well as the previous year's report. I note, from the National Water Commission's comments, that the typical residential bill, which is a different indicator to the one that the minister used, I quote:
… remains the best indicator of the impact of pricing on a utility's customers, as it is based on the typical bill paid by those customers.

The 2013-14 report states on page 7 that:

SA Water Corporation has moved to reporting a single value for its entire urban business. In the past, reporting data was sourced from four separate regions across the State (Adelaide, Mount Gambier, Whyalla, and country SA). [So] 2012-13 comparatives used in this report are based on this previously reported data and may not be fully comparable to 2013-14…
On page 37 of the report, the typical residential bill is reported. Indeed, I note that SA Water performs not as well as the minister reported in the parliament last week—it comes fourth out of 13.

Members interjecting

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I hate to break the news to the honourable member, but the Gold Coast has been ahead of all other jurisdictions for some time; however, that has been the only one in the past. My questions for the minister are:

1. Will he apologise to the Hon. Mr Brokenshire for himself selectively quoting statistics in this place?

2. What would the typical residential bill be for South Australian customers based on the previous methodology rather than the aggregated ones that SA Water has now chosen to use?

3. Why has SA Water now chosen to aggregate these bills, making capital city comparisons almost impossible to make?

4. Where would SA Water sit in the table under the old methodology if Adelaide's water was reported separately from the other regions?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:36 :15 ): I should thank the honourable member, except she gets it completely the wrong way around. It is not SA Water that aggregated the water providers; in fact, it was the Bureau of Meteorology that did that. But let me take her through the figures and she can try to cherrypick her own answers. That is all they have got: cherry picking part of the report, but it gives me an opportunity to put it all back on the record again.

The latest national performance report was conducted by the Bureau of Meteorology and released on 7 May. Based on estimated water consumption of 200 kilolitres per customer per annum, the comparison of interstate water and sewerage bills reveals that in 2013-14 SA Water has the ninth-lowest estimated water and sewerage bill out of 13 utilities. Let me remind honourable members that this is the national performance report conducted by the Bureau of Meteorology and they are the ones—

The Hon. R.L. Brokenshire: What have they got to do with water pricing?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: For goodness' sake, Mr President. The ignorance emanating from the honourable member behind me is palpable. Let me say that this is their metric and, where I gave a different view after that last time, I clearly stipulated what SA Water have done, but let me take them through it again. Logan in Queensland, the Gold Coast, Unitywater in Queensland and Yarra Valley Water in Victoria were more expensive than SA Water. Based on typical residential water consumption—the actual average annual volume of residential water consumed for each utility—a comparison of interstate water and sewerage bills reveals that in 2013-14 SA Water had the 10th lowest typical water and sewerage bill out of 13 utilities.

Again, I said at the time that this analysis includes only utilities with at least 100,000 connected properties, to try to compare apples with apples. The honourable member does not want to do that; she wants to go off and find a quince or something else to compare it to—or a banana. SA Water has undertaken a similar comparison of water and sewerage bills, based on 2014-15 prices, and water consumption of 200 kilolitres per customer per annum. Again, this comparison—I said at the time—is not restricted to only utilities with at least 100,000 connected properties.

In the Bureau of Meteorology's NPR, some smaller Queensland water providers are grouped together for the sake of the BOM's analysis—not SA Water's, as the honourable member says, but the BOM's analysis. However, SA Water's internal analysis treats all water providers as separate, which is why the NPR analysis compares 13 providers while SA Water's internal analysis compares against 20 water utilities. But, again, I made that distinction quite clear in my answer in this place last week.

SA Water's internal comparison shows that SA Water has the ninth-lowest estimated total water and sewerage bill out of 20 utilities. All of the Queensland utilities rank higher than SA Water, along with the Northern Territory's Power and Water in Victoria's Yarra Valley Water. When comparing single-service only using the 200 kilolitre methodology, SA Water has the 12th lowest water-only bill and the fourth lowest sewerage-only bill out of 20 utilities. Again, we see members opposite, aided and abetted by people behind me, who want to get the worst story possible. They are out there barracking for other states. They do not talk about real comparisons and, when the figures come out that refute their position, they do not accept them. They don't accept them; they go off to try to find something else. But the facts are that this is the Bureau of Meteorology's report, and it is putting the lie to what they say when they go out on the wireless.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 14:39 :44 ): Supplementary question: does the minister acknowledge that SA Water has always been reported in the section for utilities with 100,000-plus connected properties, as has been reported consistently through the NPR and, secondly, why is he saying that this is the Bureau of Meteorology's choice to aggregate this when, in fact, the report says, 'SA Water Corporation has moved to reporting a single value for its entire urban business'?

The Hon. R.L. Brokenshire: Yes, good question. Let's get a decent answer.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:40 :24 ): I'm not quite sure who to respond to: the Hon. Mr Brokenshire behind me or the Hon. Ms Michelle Lensink. Again, they don't really understand—and that's not a surprise, Mr President; it is a complex area and I don't expect them to spend a lot of time in this area. But, really, at the end of the day, to come in here and purport that SA Water has made these determinations when, in fact, it is the Bureau of Meteorology's report is completely erroneous.

The Hon. R.L. Brokenshire interjecting.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: The Hon. Brokenshire says, 'Well, what's it got to do with the Bureau of Meteorology?'

The Hon. R.L. Brokenshire interjecting.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: But they are very good at doing national comparative reports, and that is how they have come up with these figures.

 

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