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Issue No. 225 18 June 2004  
E D I T O R I A L

No Place Like Home
Little by little, the truth is seeping out; a judicial inquiry into James Hardies Industries corporate restructure is exposing a scandal of dramatic proportions.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: The New Democrat
Canadian activist Judy Rebick explains how she's using lessons from Brazil to rebuild the labour movement.

Bad Boss: The Ugly Australian
Prime Minister John Howard is in California spruiking the "merits" of this month’s Bad Boss nomination …

Unions: Free Spirits and Slaves
International capital demands guest labour – legal or illegal – as a way of beating down wages and conditions and, as Jim Marr discovers, the Australian Government seems happy to oblige.

Industrial: National Focus
Noel Hester reports on another workplace death (we-will-not-RIP NOHSC), heartburn for the Canberra consensus and all the action from around the states in our national wrap.

History: A Class Act
The problem of forgetting the primacy of class in favour of other ideas of community is highlighted in a new book, writes Neale Towart

International: Across the Ditch
NZ Nurses Union leader, Laila Harré, is in Sydney this week, comparing notes with the Australian Nurses Federation and seeking transTasman support for New Zealand’s highest profile industrial campaign.

Economics: Home Truths
Sydney University's Frank Stilwell argues that tax policy is driving the housing boom.

Review: No Time Like Tomorrow
The Day After Tomorrow is one part Grim Reaper of the environmental movement and two parts fictitious fable dramatically window dressed with extreme special effects, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Silent Note
Resident Bard David Peetz uncovers the current public service motto – "Don't tell the Minister!".

N E W S

 Multi Bets on China Card

 Community Flags Reconciliation Push

 Nigel’s Ad Values Questioned

 Medal for "Jobs Vandal"

 Schoolies Earn Thousands

 Westbus Drives Over Entitlements

 Circus Owners Cut Up Rough

 Fireys Slam Adelaide "Death Traps"

 Job Slasher Faces Spam

 Sixty Stations Face Axe

 "Sickies" to Join Dinosaurs

 Mr One Percent on Notice

 Stink Over DJ’s Bogs

 Aussie Kids Die on the Job

 Activists What’s On!

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
The Pursuit of Happiness Part I
The Australia Institute's Clive Hamilton questions the assumptions underlying a society that defines happiness in dollar terms.

The Soapbox
The Pursuit of Happiness Part II
Clive Hamilton concludes his analysis, looking at how more and more Australians are pulling back from a marketplace that is no longer providing the goods.

The Locker Room
Sack ‘Em All!
Phil Doyle puts his job on the line, but doesn’t everyone these days?

Politics
The Westie Wing
The NSW Government has an agenda on the table but the test is finding innovative ways to finance it, writes Ian West

L E T T E R S
 Flexed To Death
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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Editorial

No Place Like Home


Little by little, the truth is seeping out; a judicial inquiry into James Hardies Industries corporate restructure is exposing a scandal of dramatic proportions.

What we know is that James Hardies, to divest itself of long-term liabilities incurred through knowingly selling a product that causes slow and painful death, removed itself from the jurisdiction those abuses occurred in.

With the support of lawyers and actuaries who put their own cash flow ahead of the public interest, Hardies shifted its liability to a trust holding inadequate and finite funds, while moving itself to Holland to start a fresh life with a fresh name.

It's left the thousands of Australians who will contract the deadly mesothelioma over the coming years with no safety net; because there is simply no one who is legally responsible.

And the sting in the tail - the current judicial inquiry which will lead to outrage but probably very little practical change in the situation - was predicted in the contingency plans.

It is the corporate equivalent of a hit and run accident - though it is unfair to single Hardies out alone. This is behaviour that occurs at every level of the economy.

We have building sub-contractors who go bust leaving their workers unpaid entitlements only to rise like a phoenix in a different corporate guise the following week.

We have the Patricks model, where a strong company is dissected by lawyers into a series of smaller units where assets are separated from liabilities - and the workers are housed with the liabilities.

And we have the global outrage of flag of convenience shipping, where vessels register themselves under the flags of companies by countries with minimal tax and labour lawyers, transforming them into floating little third worlds.

In an era of globalisation, where our leaders are prepared to hand over our sovereignty to the market in order to deliver us economic growth, is it asking to much to expect a little reciprocity.

In a global world, global business rules must apply - a company can not just change nationality and free itself of responsibilities.

Such ideas may be out of vogue in an era where multilateral solutions are being trumped by one on one deals like the US Free Trade Agreement; but the problem with bilateralism is the nations outside the agreement.

To fail to look at the globe that defines the new world economy is merely to invite a race to the bottom, where the James Hardies of this world can claim they were acting within the law and in the interests of their shareholders.

It's enough to make you reach for the oxygen.

Peter Lewis

Editor


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