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