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Issue No. 233 13 August 2004  

Australian Pastoral
Now the US Australia Free Trade Agreement is signed, sealed and rubberstamped, we will see for ourselves who was right – those who argued Nirvana or those who warned of economic Armageddon.


Interview: Trading Places
New ACTU International Officer Alison Tate cut her teeth delivering aid to developing nations through APHEDA. Now she is helping chart the global union agenda.

Safety: Snow Job
James Hardie has been drilled into our collective consciousness as a story of power, greed and immorality. It is also, as Jim Marr reports, a tale of human tragedy.

Politics: In the Vanguard
Damien Cahill reveals how neo-liberal think tanks have been at the forefront of the corporate assault upon trade unions and social movements in Australia.

Unions: Gentle Giant Goes For Gold
Don’t get between Sydney sparkie Semir Pepic and a gold medal in a dimly lit alley, writes Tim Brunero.

Bad Boss: 'Porker' Chases Blue Ribbon
Perfect Porker, Darren Vincent, brings a history of meat worker shafting to this month’s Bad Boss nomination.

International: Cruising For A Bruising
Europe’s big unions are bruised as they watch companies roll over some of their best-organised unionised workplaces demanding longer work hours – without any recompense, reports Andrew Casey.

History: Under the Influence
Was John Kerr drunk when he wrote and signed the letter dismissing Edward Gough Whitlam from the Prime Ministership in 1975? Geraldine Willissee investigates.

Economics: Working Capital
Where superannuation fits, where it fails and what we should we do about it. Neale Towart gives the tough answers.

Review: Fahrenheit 9/11
There's many a must see moment in Mike Moore's new flick but beating the propaganda machine at its own game wreaks havoc with wearied bullshit detectors, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Bad Intelligence Rap
When Flood washed away the PM's sins, the truth was once again left high and dry.

Satire: Osama Bin Manchu
During a recent visit to an elderly relative in a nursing home, I was waylaid by an ancient gentleman who insisted I listen to what he had to say, writes Rowan Cahill.


 Hardie Boycott Sweeps State

 Vic Bosses Spit Dummy

 Revenge of the Bank Staff

 Young Workers Grounded

 Stab Proof Undies Arresting

 Carr in Cleaners Dust-Up

 Conflict Threatens Rail Safety

 Stats Lead Race to Bottom

 Spotlight on Olympic Stitch-Up

 Bomber Targets Canberra

 Casino's Gamble Backfires

 Choice in Truth Mix

 Activists What’s On!


The Westie Wing
The Labor Governments in each State must take the lead to stop the abuse of corporate law in Australia in the absence of action from the Federal Government, as the Inquiry into James Hardie’s has highlighted, writes Ian West.

The Soapbox
Cleaners Deserve Our Support
It's time the state's cleaners were given some support, loyalty and long service leave, writes Chris Christodoulou.

The Locker Room
Half Time At The Football
Phil Doyle wants to have his pie and eat it too.

Faithful Servant
Frank Mossfield was one of the labour movement’s quiet achievers. Former Labor Council secretary Michael Easson pays tribute.

Lessons From East Timor
Just back from a study tour to East Timor, National Reserach Officer with the Construction division of the CFMEU, Ben Stirling, writes about the experience for Workers Online.

 Tom’s Legal Advice
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Hardie Boycott Sweeps State

With James Hardie boss Peter Macdonald facing the prospect of prison, unions are redoubling efforts to ensure his company can’t flick billion dollar liabilities to the taxpayer.

Unions, asbestos disease sufferers and MRCF, the fund established by James Hardie Industries, this week joined forces to urge the NSW Government to reject the company’s bid for a statutory compensation scheme.

Community support flooded in with seven councils voting to boycott James Hardie products and the mayors of six others confirming resolutions would go before their next meetings.

Sydney City, Leichhardt, Parramatta, Canada Bay, Newcastle, Ashfield and Ryde have all instructed staff to seek building materials from other sources.

Bankstown, Waverley, Randwick, Wollongong Penrith and Canterbury have flagged likely support.

The CFMEU this week urged individual handy persons and renovators to join the campaign.

It urged consumers to brush the following products until James Hardie agrees to fully compensate Australians dying from contact with its products - Exo Tec façade panel; HardiColour washroom partitions; HardiePanel compressed sheets; Vitropanel; Artists Columns and Sunscreens; Ezi-Grid tilebacker; CMX System; HardieScreen lattice; the D3-100 Fixing System; Villaboard Lining; Versilux wall and ceiling linings; Soffit and Soffit Linings; Sanishute waste disposal systems; James Hardie fencing products.

"Unfortunately, the bottom line appears to be the only thing Hardie directors understand," CFMEU state secretary, Andrew Ferguson, said.

James Hardie was Australia's largest producer of asbestos-related in products.

In 2001, it moved its corporate home to Holland to become known as James Hardie NV, leaving behind a trust fund to meet compensation claims from tens of thousands of Australians expected to die from exposure to its products.

Hardie assured the NSW Supreme Court its trust fund, MRCF, would have access to $1.9 billion in assets, primarily quarantined partly-paid shares.

However, at a secret meeting barely 12 months after getting the green light to relocate, directors secretely rescinded that arrangement.

The Commission of Inquiry has heard its rapidly expiring trust is likely to fall more than $2 billion short of being able to compensate asbestos Australian asbestos victims.

Now, based in the Netherlands and the US, the company says it has "no legal or moral obligation" to Australian sufferers.

The whole corporate restructure has been resolutely opposed by the AMWU from the time it was floated.

State secretary, Paul Bastian, warned politicians of the likely ramifications, from the off, calling the restructure an "act or corporate bastardry".

The CFMEU, MUA and NSW Labor Council have joined the AMWU in campaigning against James Hardie's bid to cut and run.

Last week, counsel assisting the special inquiry established by Premier Bob Carr, recommended that California-based James Hardie CEO, Macdonald, face fraud charges for his part in the restructure.

Howard Ducks Asbestos Challenge

Meanwhile, John Howard has refused to commit the Liberal Party to returning donations made by James Hardie since it hatched its corporate restructure.

Howard refused to make any commitment until see the final outcome of the commission of inquiry, expected to report around election time.

He was put under pressure when Opposition Leader, Mark Latham, turned over $77,500 to asbestos sufferers campaigning against the former stockmarket darling.

In handing the cheque to Asbestos Dieseas Foundation of Australia vice president, Bernie Banton, Latham said it represented all the money donated to federal and NSW Labor since 2001.

Workers Online understands Coalition parties have pocketed more than $100,000 in the same period.

Bastian publicly challenged Latham to hand back the money when the ALP leader addressed the recent AMWU national conference.


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