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  Issue No 39 Official Organ of LaborNet 12 November 1999  

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News

Justice at Last for Waterfront Asbestos Victims


Tens of thousands of Australian waterside workers exposed to deadly asbestos fibres stand to benefit by thousands of dollars from a High Court decision in Canberra this week.

The High Court has upheld a jury decision to award more than $800,000 to a Melbourne wharfie who has since died after contracting the deadly cancer, mesothelioma

This is the first time a waterside worker has successfully sued for asbestos disease. The landmark ruling ends a two year saga for widow Maureen Crimmins, whose husband Brian was exposed to raw asbestos shipped loose in hessian bags when he worked on the Melbourne waterfront between 1961 and 1965.

"Under the system of labour at the time, waterside labourers worked casually for more than 15 different stevedores, making it impossible to determine which employer was responsible when a worker was exposed," Kent says.

"Workers in other industry groups have long been able to provide for their families by seeking compensation for the devastating health effects of their asbestos exposure."

The only compensation for waterside workers to date has been through an industrial agreement the union negotiated in 1982. It provides ex-gratia payments of $50,000 for any member proved to have contracted asbestos disease.

The payouts do not stop members seeking compensation claims or common law action in the courts. Mr Crimmins sued the Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee, a statutory authority which succeeded the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, the body formerly in charge of waterfront operations nationally.

In March 1997, after a 17 day trial, a jury awarded Crimmins $833,622 based on evidence of how he had contracted mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos during his days on the waterfront.

The Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee successfully appealed, but today's High Court decision restores the original jury decision.

Solicitor Margaret Kent says during the 1950s and 1960s there were more than 20,000 men working as wharfies at any given time, with considerable amounts of asbestos moving through the ports.

"Wharfies are in the top 10 occupational groups affected by mesothelioma," Ms Kent said. "The latest projections are that deaths from asbestos related disease will continue to increase for the next 20 years. Mr Crimmins died in July 1998.


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*   Issue 39 contents

In this issue
Features
*  Interview: Let Sleeping Dogs
Republican campaigner Jason Yat-Sen Li dusts off after Saturday’s vote. We ask him: where to now?
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*  Republic: Readers Speak - Kerry the Face to Deface
We asked and you have spoken; Sydney heiress Kerry Jones is the Workers Online choice for desktop doodling, as the official winner of our Defacement of a Nation competition.
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*  Economics: Understanding the Economy
Who was voted thinker of the millenium in a recent BBC Online poll? Karl Marx shooed it in. And another socialist, Albert Einsten, came second.
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*  Unions: Come Fly Away!
With just four weeks to go, Labor Council's Organiser of the year Award is up for grabs. We've only had the one entry ...
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*  Work/Time/Life: Better Times for Casuals in the Sunshine State
The Queensland Council of Unions has mounted a case in the Queensland IRC to increase wages for casual workers by up to $2.00 extra per hour.
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*  International: All Black Fate Looms for New Zealand Right
The New Zealand economic experiment – for many years the cherished role model of the Australian Liberal Party – is just about to face an angry jury.
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*  History: Who Remembers Egon Erwin Kisch?
Egon Erwin Kisch was a well known progressive journalist living in Germany when he was invited by the Australian branch of the world committee against war and fascism to speak at a conference in Melbourne in 1934.
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*  Review: Bizarrism - Strange Lives, Cults, Celebrated Lunacy
The strange story of Donald Crowhurst or how to cheat and become a God.
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*  Satire: Support Surges for Armenian Republic Model
The assassination by gun crazed extremists of the Armenian Prime Minister has been cautiously backed by Ted Mack and the Direct Electionist lobby as a possible new Republican model.
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News
»  First Social Audit Win For Rural Road Workers
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»  Y2K Bug Bites Rail Bookings
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»  Strikes Hit Schools - Before and After Class
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»  Olympic Uniforms Row Patched Up
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»  Charges to be Laid Over Gretley Disaster
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»  Jockeys Bucked On Compo
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»  Wag the Dog - Bosses Try the Back Door Strip
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»  Labour and Alliance Vow to Dump Contracts Act
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»  Bank Workers Win $3000 Payment for New Years Eve
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»  Union Organiser Thrown Off Bridge
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»  Justice at Last for Waterfront Asbestos Victims
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»  Timor Update: Positions Vacant; Upcoming Events.
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Columns
»  Guest Report
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»  Sport
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»  Trades Hall
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»  Piers Watch
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Letters to the editor
»  Fall of Communism as foreseen in 1931
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»  Reith an Error of Judgment
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»  Republic Post Mortem
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»  The Boston Strangler
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»  SOS From New York
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»  [email protected] - Wasn't it Satire?
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