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Issue No. 235 27 August 2004  

Gold Fever
So this is our most successful Olympics ever. Our athletes will return from Athens with their biggest ever haul of medals, more winners per capita than anywhere on earth. If all this is true, why does it all feel so empty?


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.


 Crane Topples at Death Probe

 Treasury�s "Scary" Power Play

 Aussie Idol on the Farm

 Email Volley Defends Delegate

 Hardie Slow on the Uptake

 Meatworkers Go Full Monty

 Sydney or the Bush

 Delta Blues

 Badge of Honour Signals Row

 Libs to Trump Court

 Project Champions Working Poor

 Jobs Victory on the Border

 Scabs in the Valley

 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.

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Hardie Slow on the Uptake

Asbestos manufacturer James Hardie Industries has pulled a "misleading and deceptive" letter under threat of legal action.

ACTU secretary, Greg Combet, said it appeared the company had learned little from its battering before the Jackson Inquiry that heard evidence it had engaged in a sophisticated disinformation campaign.

"It is astonishing after James Hardie has been through the Jackson Inquiry in New South Wales that the company would still be sending letters to suppliers in the building industry, making claims that were patently wide of the mark," Combet said.

The letter sought to defend the company's asbestos record at a time when unions and local authorities were urging boycotts until it agreed to compensate Australians dying from contact with its products.

The communication with the industry claimed James Hardie subsidiaries AMABA and AMACA were only two of around 150 defendants and accounted for just 15 percent of future likely claims in Australia.

In fact, James Hardie was Australia's leading manufacturer of asbestos products.

Its American-based CEO conceded to the Jackson Inquiry that claims against Hardie were substantially higher than the number facing any other defendant.

Uncontested evidence stated that James Hardie was now implicated in more than 40 percent of all claims before the NSW Dust Diseases Tribunal.

The Hardie letter said the company had phased out blue asbestos once the link with mesothelioma had been "firmly established" and it stopped using asbestos entirely well before last year's ban on its use.

But, Combet said, it didn't say that James Hardie companies had continued manufacturing asbestos products for "many decades after health risks had become clear".

Combet said it was time for the company to come clean.

"James Hardie should end the spin and stop this superficial marketing exercise," he said.

The ACTU wrote to James Hardie, last week, demanding withdrawal of its letter and threatening Federal Court proceedings.

The company's Australian general manager, James Chilcoff, agreed to stop further distribution of the letter.

Meanwhile, NSW Labor Council has blocked the use of any James Hardie products on the renovation of its Goulburn St, headquarters.

The move followed decisions by more than a dozen NSW local authorities, including Sydney City, Leichhardt and Newcastle, to ban Hardie's products until it agrees to pay full compensation to sufferers of asbestos-related lung diseases.

The furore over Hardie's corporate behaviour began when the AMWU blew the whistle on a 2001 restructure that saw it relocate to the Netherlands. It promised the NSW Supreme Court it would leave assets of $1.9 billion behind for the use of creditors, including asbestos disease sufferers.

In 2002, directors cancelled that arrangement without informing the court, NSW Government, sufferers or unions.

CEO Macdonald argued the Netherlands-based operation had no legal or moral obligation to dying Australians.

The Jackson Inquiry was told that James Hardie subsidiaries would fall more than $2 billion short of being able to meet expected compensation claims.


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