Hydro-Tasmania’s tantrums over the recent Dateline Australia film ‘Last Fontier’ have been exposed as entirely misleading.
A report by Sarawak Energy Bhd has detailed how, contrary to denials, the dam-building company is engaged in a leading ‘co-development’ and ‘partnership’ role in the implementation of Taib’s devastating plans for the so-called Sarawak Corridor of Energy (SCORE).
These involve 12 highly controversial dams that will flood huge swathes of the Borneo Jungle and destroy the lives of tens of thousands of indigenous people along with their cultures.
Hydro-Tasmania’s key complaint has been that the programme “exaggerated” the company’s role in SCORE, when it claimed it was just acting as one of several consultants engaged by the commissioning body Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB).
The company’s angry protests soon had the broadcaster SBS in a panic and within hours their ‘ombudsman’ issued a grovelling apology, admitting that the programme had contained “inaccuracies and bias“:
“Dateline accepts the report overplayed the role of Hydro Tasmania in the dam building projects” [Sally Begbie, SBS Ombudsman].
Time for Hydro-Tasmania to apologise instead!
However, we can now detail how it is in fact Hydro-Tasmania which has been downplaying its “essential” role in Sarawak, as described by Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB), in its Annual Report for 2010.
That report details how SEB has engaged in a key “partnership agreement with Hydro-Tasmania”, which has provided the Sarawak dam projects with the “essential skills” needed to meet their targets under SCORE.
In a section headed “Partnership With Hydro-Tasmania” the report explains that in order to achieve the SCORE agenda, SEB needed to fill “12 critical management positions” and that it had turned to the Australian dam-builder, because those skills were not available locally.
In addition the report says there is an agreement for Hydro-Tasmania to provide no less than 120 managers under a secondment programme which was due to be implemented in 2011. Seven of these were already in place at the time of the writing of the report and a further “20-30 additional support staff were envisaged over time”.
“The Partnership will be a formal agreement for knowledge transfer, which includes secondment of staff from Hydro Tasmania, consulting services and a number of co-development agreements for specific hydropower projects” the report explains.
As such it is clear that Hydro-Tasmania has taken a crucial and central partnership role in the implementation and co-development of SCORE and SEB’s 12 projected dams. In fact its personnel have virtually taken over the running of SEB’s management of Sarawak’s entire dam-building programme!
Sarawak Report has identified a number of these key staff, who have joined SEB from Tasmania since 2010, some in the most senior of roles. An SEB Vice-President and Head of Strategy and Planning is Miles Smith, who has come from a similar role at Hydro-Tasmania.
And not only are staff being seconded from the State-owned company, but they are joining direct from the
Tasmanian State Government’s Department of Energy!
Another seconded SEB Vice-President, Nick Wright, was formerly a Senior Advisor to the Tasmanian Minister for Energy and Resources, namely the Deputy-Premier Bryan Green.
Green has already raised eye-brows over his close links and vocal support for the Sarawak company Ta Ann, which has been controversially extracting wood through clear-felling in Tasmania’s remaining wilderness and describing the products as “eco-friendly”.
One of Ta Ann’s factories was built in his constituency.
The revelations surely add further questions over web of ties between Hydro-Tasmania, Tasmanian politicians and enterprises controlled by the Sarawak Chief Minister, Taib Mahmud?
Both SEB and Ta Ann have the same Chairman in Hamed Sepawi, the cousin and close ally of Taib, who exercises an iron grip over this notoriously corrupted East Malaysia state.
Wright is in charge of SEB’s Corporate Social Responsibility portfolio, which makes him responsible for ‘Resettlement and Community Consultation’ in support of this ‘massive hydropower development programme’ as he describes it.
We therefore ask why has SEB not released under full transparency the consultation and resettlement documents for any of its dam projects so far?
This includes the Murum Dam, where over a thousand Penan tribespeople are being thrown off their ancient hunting lands and where the dam is due to start filling by the end of this year?
After all, Hydro-Tasmania claims it maintains the highest benchmark of corporate responsibility and now Tasmania’s former Senior Energy Advisor is in charge!
“Essential to SEB’s achievement of the SCORE agenda”
Other key staff already appointed to SEB include James Hannon, Senior Manager for Contracts, and Graeme Maher, Senior Manager for Hydropower Development.
Maher is responsible for feasibility studies for upcoming dam projects in Lawas, Limbang, Baram 1, Baram 3, Pelagus and Baleh. The name of each region representing key indigenous peoples all threatened by the planned inundations.
Another key secondment is Hydro-Tasmania’s Andrew Pattle, who has taken over the management of the Murum Project and is also Senior Project Manager for Baram and Baleh dams.
The SEB report makes clear that these Hydro-Tas secondments are crucial to the whole project:
“In 2010, we also engaged 13 expatriate employees, of whom nine have been seconded from Hydro Tasmania pursuant to a broader partnership agreement. The recruitment of expatriates acknowledges the reality that there are skills that are both essential to SEB’s achievement of the SCORE agenda and not yet available in SEB or Sarawak” [2010 SEB Annual Report]
“The partnership programme with Hydro-Tasmania will enable us to fill our competency gaps so that we can expand with the speed necessary to meet our growth targets” summarises the 2010 SEB Annual Report!
So how on earth did Hydro-Tasmania have the brass neck to claim that the Dateline Programme exaggerated its role?
Storming onto ABC radio the following day Roy Adair, Hydro-Tasmania’s CEO insisted:
“We are not, as the programme suggested, heading up and leading this project. We are not building dams and we are certainly not involved in the relocation of peoples”[Roy Adair, ABC radio]
Given that evidence from his own partners and employees are now indicating the exact opposite, Adair should be returning to the studio to explain himself and perhaps to apologise to the makers of Last Frontier and to the people of Sarawak, who have been treated in a manner that falls far below the highest benchmarks of corporate and social responsibility!
Questions that ought now to be answered by Hydro-Tasmania
Roy Adair needs to address some fundamental questions when he is asked back into the studio to explain this new information:
- Do you need a hard hat and a spade to be considered a responsible party in a building project or can the Managers be held accountable as well?
- Could you re-address the question you did not adequately answer when ABC’s Leon Compton asked what auditing you did that led you to conclude that Taib Mahmud’s notorious autocratic and kleptocratic government were partners of the “highest integrity” whom you could do business with?
- What were the “pre-bid checks” you referred to having carried out before engaging in this mega-dam project? All you have referred to so far is establishing that SEB had joined the International Hydro-power Association. However, Leon Compton could do that before tea time upon the payment of $1,000 and as a matter of fact records show that Sarawak Energy had NOT joined the IHA at the time Hydro-Tasmania’s subsidiary started doing business with them in 2008.
- Why do you keep calling SCORE ‘sustainable’ and ‘carbon friendly’ when it will cause the inundation of vast tracks of the world’s most bio-diverse and endangered rainforest, home to the orang-utan and Penan people? The dams only last for a few decades and Sarawak’s tiny population does not need the electricity.
- Why are you refusing to release the documents (below) you have now acknowledge exist following Freedom of Information requests by Tasmanian MPs? Are your commercial interests on behalf of the people of Tasmania really more important than the public interest or the livelihoods of the people of Sarawak?
- Or is it that these documents will only serve to confirm the evidence already put forward by Sarawak Energy that Hydro-Tasmania is raking in millions in return for turning Taib’s mad fantasies into a reality?
Go on Roy. Get back in there, take a challenge!