||Issue No. 332||10 November 2006|
Affairs of State
Interview: Common Ground
Industrial: A Low Act
Unions: The Number of the Least
Politics: The Smoking Gun
Economics: Microcredit, Compulsory Superannuation and Inequality
Environment: Low Voltage
History: The Art of Social Justice
Review: Work’s Unhealthy Appetite
Culture: A Forgotten Poet
Taxing Times for Compo Cheat
The ATO has given the building products giant a favourable ruling on its new asbestos compensation fund, opening the way for billions of dollars to flow to Aussies poisoned by its products.
James Hardie, yesterday, described the ruling as an "important milestone" in delivering on a promise it made to asbestos sufferers, unions and the NSW Government nearly two years ago.
Chair Meredith Helicar told shareholders, in September, the tax status of the fund was the "only substantive issue" standing between asbestos sufferers and Hardie's money.
But campaigners aren't knocking the tops off cold ones yets. They have seen Hardie duck and weave for years in a bid to limit its exposure to the families of dying people.
Asbestos Diseases Foundation president Barry Robson said he wouldn't be celebrating until sufferers saw the colour of Hardie's cash.
"That's when we'll declare an end to the campaign and open a couple of bottles of beer," the former MUA official told the AFR.
Dogged community campaigning, led by NSW unions, saw James Hardie publicly exposed for perpetrating one of the greatest acts of corporate bastardry in Australian history.
The furore centre on a 2001 restructure that saw the building products giant 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.
Former CEO Peter Macdonald argued the Netherlands-based operation had no legal or moral obligation to dying Australians.
But the strategy came to grief when the NSW Government put the company's actions under the spotlight of a public inquiry.
After the embarrassment of the Jackson Inquiry, James Hardie negotiated a settlement with parties headed by ACTU chief Greg Combet.
For the past two years it has put off funding its new compensation fund because of the issue of its tax status.
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