|Issue No 63
|21 July 2000
STOP PRESS: Landmark Legal Ruling on Asbestos
By Zoe Reynolds
The NSW Court of Appeal has found a Commonwealth authority breached its duty of care to waterside workers, ending a 12 year battle.
The NSW Court of Appeal today ordered the Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee to pay former waterside worker and asbestosis victim Mr Ron Gibson damages - ruling that the commonwealth authority had breached its duty of care to Mr Gibson and thousands of other waterside workers.
The landmark ruling confirmed that the Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee (who inherited the liabilities of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority) failed to take adequate measures to warn waterside workers of the dangers of asbestos or provide suitable respiratory protective equipment.
Solicitors for Mr Gibson, Turner Freeman, claimed this was one of the most significant rulings in the long-running battle to secure just compensation for victims of asbestos related disease on the waterfront.
"The High Court established in 1999 that the SIFC owed its waterside workforce a duty of care," claimed Mr Armando Gardiman from Turner Freeman Solicitors.
"This ruling confirms, without an inch of doubt, that this duty of care was breached. This case clears the way for literally thousands of waterside workers to seek compensation from the Commonwealth in the future," he said.
"Up to 100,000 Australian have been employed on the wharves in various capacities since 1950. We know that many of these workers either have or will, be diagnosed with asbestos realted disease. For these people, today's ruling is a truly momentous event."
Assistant Secretary of the NSW Central Branch of the Maritime Union of Australia, Mr Barry Robson hailed the settlement as a great victory for his members.
"For more than 12 years we have fought for justice for the waterside workers who, through no fault of their own, have sustained this life threatening illness.
"The time has finally arrived for the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authroity to accept its responsibility for this catastrophe. They knew the dust was dangerous and should have done something to protect the workers," he said.
"Mr Gibson, with the assistance and perseverance of the Maritime Union and Turner Freeman Solicitors, has paved the way for thousands of waterside workers affected by asbestos to recieve compensation for clear breach of care."
� Australia has used more asbestos per head than any other nation in the world.
� More than 40 per cent of all workers heavily exposed to asbestos will die from asbestos related cancer.
Interview: Paul Keating's Big Picture
The former Prime Minister is still painting on a broad canvass. He talks to Workers Online about the new economy, fair trade and political chi.
Unions: War in the West
Only six months after signing individual staff contracts, the gloss has worn off for some of BHP's Pilbara iron ore workers.
Environment: Farmers Fudge DNA Dangers
Farmers have missed the chance to have a meaningful debate into the use of genetically modified crops.
International: 'Dot Union' Proposal on the Table
ICANN, the global governing body of Internet domains, has released the following expression of interest in proposing a top-level domain for trade unions
Economics: Edge of the Abyss
Political economist Frank Stilwell argues that a constellation of events gives good reason to be worried about the Australian economy.
History: Taming the Tigers
Prominent labour historian, Dr Ming Chan, is visiting Australia to report on how workers are faring in the new Hong Kong.
Review: Music is Crap
It's already the second half of the first year in the new millenium. Who would have ever predicted a crisis in the popular music industry when we are at such an advanced stage ?
Satire: Last Kosovars Found Behind Couch
State Emergency Services personnel were called to a house in Brighton this morning, where the last five remaining Kosovar refugees have been found wedged behind a couch.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005