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Issue No. 229 16 July 2004  
E D I T O R I A L

The Sins of Our Fathers
The James Hardie story unfolding before the NSW Government Commission of Inquiry is not about business, it is not about politics, it is not even about the law.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: Power and the Passion
ALP's star recruit Peter Garrett shares his views on unions, forests and being the Member for Wedding Cake Island

Unions: Tackling the Heavy Hitters
Tony Butterfield became a State of Origin gladiator at the unlikely age of 33. Even that, Jim Marr reports, couldn’t prepare him for the knock-down, drag-em-out world of modern IR.

Industrial: Seeing the Forest For The Wood
Proposals to flog off NSW’s forests have raised eyebrows and temperatures amongst some of the key players reports Phil Doyle.

Housing: Home Truths
CFMEU national secretary John Sutton argues for a radical solution to the housing affordability crisis.

International: Boycott Busters
International unions have issued a new list of corporations breaching ILO sanctions to do business in Burma.

Economics: Ideology and Free Trade
The absurdities of neoclassical economic assumptions has never stood in the way of their being trotted out to justify profiteering and attacks on the rights of citizens. The AUSFTA is the latest rort we are supposed to swallow, writes Neale Towart.

History: Long Shadow of a Forgotten Man
Interest in JC Watson's short time as Labor's first Prime Minister should not detract from his more substantial role as Party leader, writes Mark Hearn

Review: Chewing the Fat
As debate rages in Australia about Fast Food advertising, Julianne Taverner takes a look at a side of the industry that Ronald McDonald won’t tell you about in Supersize Me.

Poetry: Dear John
Workers Online reader Rob Mullen shares some personal correspondence with our glorious leader.

N E W S

 Noose Tightens on James Hardie

 ‘Payback’ in Mildura

 Beware of Expensive Imitations

 Death Law on Tassie Books

 Boss Goes Off Prematurely

 Goats Clip Security

 Vale Frank Altoff

 Gnarly Break Hits FoC

 Forgecast Reneges on Millions

 Workmates Back Whistleblower

 "Thuggery" from AIDS Chiefs

 Keystone Cops In Timber Town

 Waste Work Binned

 Activists What’s On!

C O L U M N S

Politics
The Westie Wing
As the NSW Labor Government sells its first budget deficit in nine years, the real concern for the union movement is the devil in the detail, especially when it comes to procurement agreements, writes Ian West.

The Soapbox
Rubber Bullets
Labor's IR spokesman Craig Emerson launches a few characteristic salvos across the Parliamentary chamber

The Locker Room
Tears After Bedtime
Phil Doyle says that it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye

Postcard
Postcard from Vietnam
APHEDA's Hoang Thi Le Hang reports from the north of Vietnam on a project being fund by Australian unionists.,

L E T T E R S
 Supersize Hypocrisy
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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News

Noose Tightens on James Hardie


Dying Australians could sue James Hardie overseas, under a radical proposal to stop its billion dollar bid to duck justice.

The IMF (International Metalworkers Federation) is expected to help block escape routes for the one-time blue chip by lobbying Governments in Europe and the US to negotiate legal treaties with Australia.

An IMF meeting in Geneva is considering AMWU proposals to mount pressure on the Governments of the Netherlands and the US state of Delaware for formal treaties that would oblige James Hardie to meet its debts to tens of thousands of Australians dying from asbestos-related lung diseases.

The move is part of a multi-faceted union response to James Hardie's bid to have the NSW Government introduce a statutory scheme that would limit its liabilities by slashing payments to asbestos disease sufferers and surviving family members.

James Hardie floated the proposal, essentially a re-run of last year's unsuccessful move to allow asbestos producers to keep their profits while socialising their losses, this week.

It came in the company's formal response at the Jackson Inquiry that had heard evidence it told the NSW Supreme Court, at the time of its relocation to the Netherlands, it would leave $1.9 worth of assets in Australia for the benefit of creditors.

Less than 18 months later, at a secret board meeting, James Hardie cancelled that arrangement without informing the court, the stock market or asbestos sufferers.

Treaties with the Netherlands and Delaware, where the company is also registered, are just one element of a campaign that will also include consumer boycotts and possible workplace bans.

NSW unions will also join state Labor's Left Caucus members in lobbying to ensure the Carr Government does not accede to a proposal that would slash compensation payments and transfer some of the cost onto taxpayers

Labor Council unanimously supported a five-point action plan from the AMWU and CFMEU after hearing an impassioned plea from dying Sydney man, Bernie Banton.

"I implore you people to stop them getting away with this," Banton told delegates.

"It's people like me and my family that are suffering every day because people at James Hardie have no morality," he said.

"James Hardie knew for years that its asbestos was killing people. They promised the court they would leave behind $1.9 billion for sufferers then, by stealth, they turned around and robbed us.

"These people have lied to the Commission, lied to their shareholders and lied to the court. They can't be trusted."

AMWU national secretary, Doug Cameron, said the move to head James Hardie off at the international pass was serious.

"Through our international ties, the AMWU will use every possible pressure point to ensure this company does not get away with this corporate jail break," Cameron said.

"The behaviour of James Hardie towards Australian victims of asbestos disease is reprehensible and demands, local, national and international responses to ensure it meets its legal and moral obligations."

The Inquiry into James Hardie's behaviour, headed by David Jackson, QC, is expected to report to the NSW Government in September.


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