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August 2004   

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.


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.


Tarnished Rings
As our athletes approach the starting line in Athens, it is interesting to reflect on how the world has changed since Sydney was the centre of a global group hug just four years ago.


 Stink Rises from Hamberger

 ALP Embraces Collectivism

 Bully Drives Deckhand into Drink

 Fighter in Cancer Link

 Tunnellers Dig in for Safety

 Seconds Out in Newcastle

 Vale Josh Heuchan

 "Betrayal" Sparks Election Rethink

 Councils Wedge James Hardie

 Great Southern Death Rattler

 Libs Desert "War Criminal"

 Casuals Take Over

 ALP Star Hits The Waterfront

 Activists What�s On!

 An Officer And A Teacher
 Tom Goes Asexual
 Road Rage At Work
 Democracy In Action
 Asbestos Bastadry
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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.

Asbestos has been floating around for years now, dodged as an issue by corporations and governments as much as possible. It involves long-term liabilities and billions of dollars in compensation.

The challenge is for all tiers of government to pierce the corporate veil in the interests of the workers, the victims of work injuries as well as the companies who trade honestly.

The recent news obviously surrounds the inquiry into the James Hardie Group's Medical Research and Compensation Fund (MCRF), which shows that the unions are still deadly serious and this time they will not settle for stalemate.

The NSW Government set up the Commission of Inquiry into the MCRF to investigate whether the fund would cover the company's liability, especially the way in which the parent company was shifted to the Netherlands.

That inquiry is due to report on 21st September and it would be inappropriate to pre-empt the findings before then.

However, there's plenty of evidence to suggest that the corporate greed that assumes the taxpayer will underwrite any liabilities that companies don't want to be responsible for is still alive and well.

What's more, the support network of advisers on legal matters, actuarial matters, lobbyists and so on that feed off the ill-gotten gains of these unconscionable corporations is seriously in need of dismantling.

That's where the levels of government come in to regulate this behaviour. It's true that far too often, governments need a prod to get them going and that's where the unions are doing an excellent job at the moment.

In the meantime, the CFMEU, the AMWU and the Asbestos Diseases Foundation launched the idea of Asbestos Certificates as a safety provision in the conveyancing process, much like a building inspection.

On the day of the launch, along with Andrew Ferguson, I was honoured to accompany a number of people affected by asbestos-related diseases, to meet with several Sydney Mayors.

The Mayors were being asked to find alternative sources for the products their Councils were currently purchasing from James Hardie Industries until the issue of compensation for their injuries is resolved.

The Mayors were very receptive to the cause and committed to asking their Councils not to allow the use of James Hardie products on any Council sites unless contracted to do otherwise or if alternative products are unavailable.

It was indicative, in the space of an afternoon, that commitments can by made by elected representatives that can make a real change.

Along with a number of my parliamentary colleagues I will be supporting a motion in the next Caucus at the end of August that the Labor Government opposes the establishment of a statutory fund or limiting liabilities of any company that caused asbestos-related diseases. In the meantime, I'll be writing letters to this effect, as will many of my colleagues.

Furthermore as a state government, we must lobby the Federal government to introduce appropriate corporate law reform to prevent companies from shifting their assets to avoid liability.

After all, these claims will not be going away soon. Estimates put the peak year of asbestos disease claims being 2012 and taking a long time to decline.

The liabilities will fade just as slowly and unless they're properly managed through rigorous corporate laws, the measure of the cost to the taxpayer will be just as unpredictable.

It's only fair that the Government should act as soon as appropriate and that the victims of asbestos must be fully compensated by the company responsible.

Under no circumstances must these companies be allowed to transfer their liabilities onto the public purse.

This is the resolution that Labor Mayor of Canada Bay City, Angelo Tsirekas, successfully put to Council on 3/8/04:

1. THAT Council condemn the actions of James Hardie Industries NV in

the strongest possible terms for its attempts to avoid funding ABN 60

Pty Ltd as proposed which would in turn provide funding for the

legitimate claims of asbestos victims.

2. THAT until such time as James Hardie complies with its funding

proposal, the General Manager is asked to:

(a) request that all existing contractors working on City projects do

not purchase or use James Hardie products;

(b) require all new contractors not to use James Hardie products on

City projects; and

(c) direct City staff not to purchase any new James Hardie products

except where an existing City contract requires the use of James Hardie

products, or there is no alternative product available.

3. THAT Council refer the above to the Local Government Association for

debate at the forthcoming conference.

4. THAT the General Manager write to the State Member urging the State

Government to adopt a similar policy.

Some links that provide more information on the above are the Special Commission of Inquiry into the MRCF

And for my spin on What's On in NSW Parliament, go to Ian West's Online Office at

I am interested to hear feedback and ideas--you can contact Antony Dale or myself at Parliament House on (02) 9230 2052 or email me at [email protected].


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