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Issue No. 264 20 May 2005  
E D I T O R I A L

Conviction Politics
In modern politics even ideology has become a matter of convenience; look no further than the principle that ‘third parties’ need to be removed from the workplace.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: Fortress NSW
NSW IR Minister John Della Bosca on how to win the battle for workers rights - and save the state system.

Unions: Fashions Afield
With new anti-sweatshop creations being paraded at this year's Australian Fashion Week, is equity the new black and are sweatshops the new fur? asks Tara de Boehmler.

Industrial: Pay Dirt
John Burgess argues that the flow-on effect from changing the minimum wage could be more than we bargained for.

Politics: Infrastructure Blues
With much attention given belatedly to the shortage of infrastructure, little attention has been given to the structure of infrastructure, writes Evan Jones

History: Big Day Out
Neale Towart looks back on the events that created the May Day heritage.

International: Making History
Hundreds of aid organisations, charities, trade unions and religious groups have formed a global alliance called “ Make Poverty History”.

Economics: The Fear Factor
The solution to skill shortages is intelligent planning, argues John Spoehr

Review: The Robots Revolt
New kids flick Robot uses our electronic friends to teach audiences that inbuilt obsolescence is just a state of mind, writes Tara de Boehmler

Poetry: The Corporation's Power
The idea of a corporations power that could cure any ill has inspired our resident bard, David Peetz, to verse.

N E W S

 BHP Gets Decision to Die For

 Howard Turns to Water

 PM Noses into Pinocchio Territory

 Protest is Child’s Play

 A Baloney Deal Under Fire

 Decapitation Witness Dudded

 Newsroom Bullies Make Headlines

 Nelson Takes Axe To Brains

 Council Unhealthy for Families

 Top End Leader Backs Unions

 A Storm In Every Port

 Greens Go Rights

 Activist’s What’s On!

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
May Spray
Unions NSW secretary John Robertson delivered the annual May Day Toast - and warned it is no time to be comfortable and relaxed.

The Locker Room
A Rucking Good Time
Phil Doyle reveals many things, some of them useful

Parliament
The Westie Wing
Our favourite MP, Ian West, is back to regale us with inside goss and intrigue from the Bearpit.

L E T T E R S
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News

BHP Gets Decision to Die For


Australia’s biggest company is trying to deny South Australian asbestos sufferers access to the Dust Diseases Tribunal.

The AMWU and Asbestos Victims Association of South Australia are demanding urgent state government action in the wake of BHP Billiton’s challenge to a former employee’s right to gain compensation through the NSW Dust Diseases Tribunal.

Thousands of South Australians, infected while working at BHP or James Hardie, could be ruled out of quick, relatively low-cost, compensation by a High Court decision that forces Trevor Schultz to seek redress through the South Australian Supreme Court.

BHP unsuccessfully challenged Schultz's right to access the Tribunal through the NSW Supreme Court but succeeded on appeal to High Court of Australia.

"This could be a major blow to South Australian asbestos sufferers and their families," Victims Association secretary, Terry Miller, warns. "BHP has obviously run this case because it believes it will have to pay victims less.

"The other serious problem is time. Many asbestos disease sufferers don't have a lot of it and the South Australian court system is clogged up.

"Traditionally, we have had access to the NSW Tribunal but there is a big question mark over that now. We have been trying to get our own Dust Diseases Tribunal set up for some time and this makes it urgent."

There are more than 600 new mesothelioma cases diagnosed in Australia every year and South Australia has the second highest per capita rate of asbestos disease in the world.

The majority of mesothelioma sufferers die within 12 months of diagnosis.

Miller fears the BHP "victory" could impact on thousands of South Australians who suffer a range of asbestos-related conditions.

Just last weekend, former BHP Whyalla employee, Bill Ewins, died, after successfully running his compensation claim through the Supreme Court.

He had been awarded nearly $200,000 but never saw the money.

"It's some small consolation to actually see the cheque and know your family is provided for," Miller said. "It gives a lot of our members a sense of closure."

He described NSW's Dust Diseases Tribunal as "not perfect but still world's best practice".

It's advantages, he said, included its speed, relative informality, and the size of payouts awarded to victims and their families.

"Because of BHP's actions we need urgent change and that's what we've told the government."

BHP Billiton more than doubled its half-year profit to last December to an Australian record of more than $3.5 billion.


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