The ACTU calls for the Federal Government to take steps towards a treaty with the Netherlands where the James Hardie company is now based so that asbestos victims can pursue their rights to full compensation.

ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said:

“It is estimated 40,000 to 60,000 will die from asbestos related diseases in Australia and that James Hardie could be liable for compensation in an estimated 76% of cases.

Three years ago James Hardie relocated its business to the Netherlands in a suspected attempt to protect the assets of the company against asbestos compensation claims.

The Netherlands is a country without a legal treaty with Australia that would allow asbestos victims to pursue their right to compensation from the company.

The NSW Government inquiry in to James Hardie’s asbestos compensation fund has heard evidence there is a potential $1.3 billion shortfall in the money available for victims.

Speaking earlier today on Channel Nine’s Business Sunday Program ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said:

“There are claimants here who were kids exposed to asbestos products, the wives of people who were working in James Hardie operations or in other industries like the electricity industry, for example, where asbestos was used. Women who were cleaning the overalls of their husbands, people exposed at many different levels in the community. And here’s this mob, this James Hardie clears out to the Netherlands with all the assets.”

At the first starting point is the Carr Government has to just tell James Hardie to get lost with its request to limit its liability, and I think Bob Carr seems to have suggested that he thinks they ought to get lost, so that is a good start.

But the next phase with this is really for the New South Wales Government to receive the report of this commission of inquiry, to look carefully at the recommendations.

The Howard Government will also need to look at the recommendations because I’m sure that they will go to the issue of the Commonwealth corporations law. And the Commonwealth Government also needs to take steps to get into place as quickly as possible a treaty with the government in the Netherlands, so that any judgements found against directors and against James Hardie entities in Australia can be enforced in the Netherlands.”