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The Corporates Who Seek Control of Victoria's Water

The Corporates Who Seek Control of Victoria's Water

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Published by Brigid Walsh
A brief consideration of the activity of Suez and Veolia in Victoria.
A brief consideration of the activity of Suez and Veolia in Victoria.

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Published by: Brigid Walsh on Jul 17, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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On 30 September, 2008 The Brumby Governmentreleased a shortlist for the design, construction, financing, operation and maintenance of Victoria’s Desalination PlantProject. 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 andthe purchase of renewable energy. It is expected that, in spite of well-articulatedcommunity concerns, the desalination will proceed with the successful bidder to beannounced shortly.The two shortlisted bidders are:AquaSure comprising Degrémont, SUEZ Environnement, Macquarie CapitalGroup and Thiess; andBassWater comprising Veolia Water, John Holland and ABN AMRO Australia.Who are the corporations who will effectively control significant parts of Victoria’swater supply for decades to come?
 Please consider 
Degremont is a subsidiary of Suez Environment.
Suez Environment(the current result of re-organisations and mergers)isone of the oldest continuously existing multinational corporations inthe world, with one line of corporate history dating back to the 1822– older than Melbourne, older than the Government of Victoria. Theconsequences of such a long corporate history related to water is thatSuez Environment is rich in expertise, technology, research, andskilled personnel – and experienced in lobbying governments.
Macquarie Capital Group, an Australian company, is the financier for AquaSure. It handles the fundraising (including stock exchangelisting) and is likely to be responsible for any shortfall. It has a rangeof interests in environmental projects internationally.
Thiessis the construction partner in the project.Thiess is 100% owned by Leighton’s.Leighton Holdingsalso ownsJohn Hollandwhich is  part of the other bidding consortium, BassWater. There are fewsignificant projects built in Australia which do not involve Leighton’s.
Veolia Water is aVeolia Environment company, along with Connex which manages Melbourne’s trains. Veolia is, after Suez, the secondoldest water company in the world – going back to Napoleonic times– and is the largest wastewater company in the world.
John Holland. See comments above under Thiess.
ABN AMROis aDutch company headquartered in Amsterdam with offices in Zwolle (Netherlands), Sydney (Australia), and Dubai. For its role see comments above for Macquarie Capital Group.
Taking Care Of Business
The business practices of Suez and Veolia in other countries – and in Australia – givecause for concern.For further research, the Business & Human Rights ResourceCentreis one place to start. Another excellent resource isBlue Covenantby Maude Barlow.One of the most glaring breaches of human rights and the right of humanity’s accessto water isthe story of Suez in Bolivia. On January 10 the citizens of El Alto took tothe 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 presidentissued 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 yearsexactly, the now famous revolt against water privatization in Cochabamba, in which acompany controlled by the Bechtel Corporation was ousted from the country.You canread about Veolia Water’s poor management practicesthat led to a massivesewage spill in Scotland – and the outcry over the comparatively minimal fineincurred. However, perhaps the most significant controversy for Veolia is that whichsuggests breaches of United Nations resolutions in providing a light rail service toillegal settlements in Jerusalem.Reports indicatethat the controversy has had afinancial impact on Veolia and that it is now withdrawing from the project.But closer to home, in Victoria, there are questions that need to be asked andanswered.Coliban Water is a government owned water corporation.Veolia has a seat on the Board of Coliban Water in its own right. The person representing Veoliaon the Board is David Beard
MAICD, FIEAust, CP Eng., MBus.
Appointed to theBoard in October 2005, Mr Beard is General Manager Commercial Services Victoriafor Veolia Environmental Services. He has over 15 years experience in civilengineering, and from 2000-05 served as a Director with the City of Greater Bendigo, before taking up his current role. Mr Beard has served on the MAV's TransportAdvisory Committee, Goulburn Valley and Calder Regional Waste ManagementGroups, Calder Highway Improvement Committee, and the Institute of EngineersAustralia. He is also Vice President of the Victorian Waste Management Association.Certainly, Mr Beard has extensive experience and knowledge which undoubtedly isvaluable. However, to a person who does not sit on the board of Coliban Water questions of probity and transparency arise.
Is this position a backdoor to government for Veolia?
Does this position enable Veolia to gain an understanding of government thinking and the Victorian Government’s position anddirection on water and related issues?
Does Veolia – in any of its corporate forms – do business with ColibanWater?Taking care of business for both Suez and Veolia seems to mean, in the first instance,taking care of governments. They have the experience and the resources to ensure

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