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May 2006   

Interview: Out of the Bedroom
Reverend Jim Wallis is leading a crusade to take the moral debate into the public arena.

Industrial: Cloak and Dagger
The Howard Government has begun a series of workshops to sell its WorkChoice vsision. Sean Ambrose sneaked through the doors for Workers Online.

Unions: Lockout!
Jim Comerford’s eyewitness account of the 15-month Lockout of 10,000 New South Wales miners in1929-1930 records the inside story of Australia’s most bloody and bitter industrial conflict

Legal: The Fantasy of Choice
Professor Ron McCallum argues the WorkChoices laws are built on a fundamental fiction.

Politics: Labor Pains
Labor has dealt itself out of the crucial workplace relations debate by failing to articulate a credible policy alternative to Howard’s new WorkChoices legislation, argues Mark Heearn and Grant Michelson

Economics: Economics and the Public Purpose
Evan Jones pays tribute to John Kenneth Galbraith, a big man who never stopped arguing that economics should serve the public good, not create public squalor.

Corporate: House of Horrors
Anthony Keenan takes a tour of Sydney’s notorious, Asbestos House, courtesy of Gideon Haig.

History: Clash Of Cultures
Neale Towart with a new take on Mayday through the words of a punk icon

International: Childs Play
An ILO report into Child Labour shows some progress is being made to curb this gobal scurge .

Culture: Folk You Mate!
Phil Doyle dodges Morris Dancers to find signs of Working Life at the National Folk Festival in Canberra over the Easter Weekend.

Review: Last Holeproof Hero
Finally, a superhero who has worked out how to wear his underpants. Nathan Brown ogles V for Vendetta


The Soapbox
Albo's Meltdown
Labor's environment spokesman Antony Albanese argues that Chrernobyl is one reason why the ALP should stand firm on nuclear.

The Locker Room
A Sort Of Homecoming
Phil Doyle plays to the whistle.

The Westie Wing
Our favourite MP, Ian West reports from Macquarie Street on some strange collective acction.


Contract With Australia
If WorkChoices is the legislative expression of the Howard Government’s ideological hatred of unions, the Independent Contractors Act is the product of an altogether more dangerous form of ideological zealotry.


 Andrews Axes Safety

 Plant Fission for Cost Savings

 Spotless Bosses Blame Howard

 Aussie Bushman Pronounced Dead

 Who's Smirking Now?

 Yellow Bosses See Red

 Amber Light on Howard's Way

 Secret Police Spook Mum

 Wally Pollies Set for Cracker

 Qantas to Parachute In Pilots

 Unmask the Puppeteers, Union Demands

 Cleaners Mop Up

 Cane Toads Hop Into Johnny

 King of Onkaparinga Cries Poor

 Activist's What's On!

 Restaurant a Rip Off
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House of Horrors

Anthony Keenan takes a tour of Sydney’s notorious, Asbestos House, courtesy of Gideon Haig.


At James Hardie, a name synonymous with the deaths of thousands involved in the manufacture and use of its products, corporate objectives and profits were always first priority. Gideon Haig's book describes a company for which the human cost of manufacturing was an after thought, the price of doing business. He warns 'the Hardie story should remind us that commercial decisions have real, lasting and sometimes deadly human outcomes.'

Most would be aware of role the union movement, led by ACTU secretary Greg Combet, took in the campaign for justice after the company sought to strip its asbestos liabilities through a complicated restructure. This book also details the early years of James Hardie Industries, a company whose success was built on the manufacture of asbestos fibre cement; especially in the 50's when fibro began to make its indelible mark on the Australian landscape. And while the fibro dwellings that once defined Australian suburbia may be fading into history, the deadly legacy of James Hardie products hangs over our future.

The spectre of asbestosis and mesothelioma is never far from the book's narrative, as Haig parallels the rise and rise of JH with the growing evidence of the deadly properties of 'one of the worst industrial poisons of the twentieth century.' The personal stories of working men and women struck down by disease, interspersed through the book, impact with devastating effect.

Ex-CEO Peter MacDonald engineered a labyrinthine process to rid the company's responsibilities to asbestos victims through legal and financial restructuring that resulted in public outcry. It was largely the union campaign, led by Greg Combet and the iconic Bernie Banton, which resulted in a settlement that ensured victims of asbestos poisoning would be compensated in the future.

Hardie consistently ignored medical research, failed to actively investigate the long term health impacts of its products, resisted changing work practices or health and safety policies and was slow to warn workers and consumers when the dangers were known.

The company developed a reputation as a hostile defendant against claimants with only months or weeks to live. Eventually, it transferred asbestos liabilities from their parent company to under-funded subsidiaries in an attempt to limit the future compensation claims of asbestos victims.

Gideon Haig strips the respectable façade from a building company that was a stock market darling during the years it operated out of its Asbestos House.

You can find out more about Asbestos House by visiting <

Asbestos House - The secret history of James Hardie Industries By Gideon Haig - Scribe Publications, 442pgs


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