Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens Energy spokesperson
The Greens’ serious concerns and questions about Hydro Entura’s involvement with the conflict-ridden Ugandan Karuma Dam project, raised in GBEs today, were not answered by the Energy Minister.
Construction of the 600MW Karuma Hydro Dam has been underway since the mid-1990s, and has generated conflicts over land dispossession, allegations of bribery and human rights abuses, multiple court cases and arrests, and serious workplace health and safety issues.
In June this year, Ugandan media reported the routine searching of 6,000 workers by the army, and the shooting death of a worker.
This isn’t a project many Tasmanians will expect or want a publicly-owned entity to be involved in.
Neither Minister Barnett nor Hydro’s CEO could shed any light on the alleged human rights abuses surrounding the Karuma Dam build. While Hydro conducted due diligence before Entura took up the contract with Sinohydro, it appears it was focussed on risks to Hydro staff, and by implication the business bottom line.
Diligence investigations prior to working on the Ugandan dam did not appear to stretch to an inspection of easily available public records, which detail more than 20 years of local conflict, court cases around unjust resettlement, and allegations of poor working conditions.
Hydro’s CEO described Entura as a “key contributor to the profitability of Hydro” that is “exceeding sales targets”. Entura is a publicly-owned company, and it would be a serious concern if it was a party to profiting from human misery.
Minister Barnett’s dismissive response to the Greens’ questioning about alleged serious working conditions in the Ugandan Dam project suggested he did not hold Hydro to the same high standards for worker safety in that country as in Tasmania.
The Energy Minister needs to reassure Tasmanians there is comprehensive vetting of Hydro’s business activities overseas regarding human rights. That reassurance must include a mechanism for disengaging immediately should abusive acts or unsafe working conditions are established.