THE CORPORATES WHO SEEK CONTROL OF VICTORIA’S WATER.
On 30 September, 2008 The Brumby Government released a shortlist for the design, construction, financing, operation and maintenance of Victoria’s Desalination Plant Project. The desalination plant, the largest in Australia, will be delivered as a Public-Private Partnership, which includes construction and operation of the desalination plant, an 85-kilometre transfer pipeline, delivery of power supply for the project and the purchase of renewable energy. It is expected that, in spite of well-articulated community concerns, the desalination will proceed. The AquaSure consortium has been chosen to build, operate and profit from 1/3 of Melbourne’s water supply.
Who are the corporations who will effectively control significant parts of Victoria’s water supply for decades to come? Please consider:
• Degremont is a subsidiary of Suez Environment.
• Suez Environment (the current result of re-organisations and mergers) is one of the oldest continuously existing multinational corporations in the world, with one line of corporate history dating back to the 1822 – older than Melbourne, older than the Government of Victoria. The consequences of such a long corporate history related to water is that Suez Environment is rich in expertise, technology, research, and skilled personnel – and experienced in lobbying governments.
• Macquarie Capital Group, an Australian company, is the financier for AquaSure. It handles the fundraising (including stock exchange listing) and is likely to be responsible for any shortfall. It has a range of interests in environmental projects internationally.
And who is helping fund the project? You are!
The State Government will eventually extract the money to build, operate and provide profit for AquaSure, from at least doubling your water bills. They have also agreed to be ‘lender of last resort’ if the whole $4.8 billion or more needed to build the plant can’t be found by AquaSure. In the mean time the following Australian banks are allowing the project to begin (although they would most likely wish to divest themselves of at least part of their debt financing to AquaSure):
Taking Care Of Business
The business practices of Suez in other countries – and in Australia – give cause for concern. For further research, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre is one place to start. Another excellent resource is Blue Covenant by Maude Barlow.
One of the most glaring breaches of human rights and the right of humanity’s access to water is the story of Suez in Bolivia. On January 10 the citizens of El Alto took to the streets en masse to demand that their water system, privatized in 1997 under World Bank pressure, be returned to public hands. Three days later Bolivia’s president issued a decree cancelling the water concession, led by the French water giant Suez, and an arm of the World Bank itself. The El Alto water revolt follows, by five years exactly, the now famous revolt against water privatization in Cochabamba, in which a company controlled by the Bechtel Corporation was ousted from the country.
Taking care of business for Suez seems to mean, in the first instance, taking care of governments. They have the experience and the resources to ensure this. Big business in Victoria certainly has the ear of the current State Government.
Should the Victorian Government table all documents, studies, contracts, details of water costs, diary notes of meetings with Government ministers and bureaucrats, and environmental management plans? They have not! Please consider.