The ACTU today calls on the Liberal Party and the National Party to immediately return the $78,000 in donations they received from James Hardie and donate them to asbestos victims.

ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said today:

The ACTU welcomes the statement today by corporate regulator ASIC that it is investigating issues surrounding James Hardie.

In light of yesterday’s Jackson report findings and the ASIC investigation, James Hardie CEO Peter MacDonald must resign or be sacked by the Board.

Other executives and directors who have attracted adverse criticism in the report should be carefully considering their position.

There are also issues for federal political parties – particularly political donations and the need for reform of Australia’s corporations law so that immoral corporate behaviour is prevented in the future.

The ACTU welcomes the fact that the ALP has returned donations totaling $77,500 from James Hardie that were made since February 2001 when the corporate restructuring took place.

John Howard said in Parliament that he would wait until the Jackson Inquiry reported before considering the issue of donations.

The Liberals and Nationals at state and federal levels have received a total of $78,000 since February 2001 and they should now donate it to asbestos victims.

The Jackson Inquiry report also highlights the need to consider wider corporations law changes in circumstances such as James Hardie.

It is important that parent companies are made responsible for the liabilities of subsidiaries, as recommended by the Counsel Assisting the Inquiry, where there is personal injury or death and where there has been an attempt to hide behind the ‘corporate veil’ to avoid meeting compensation to victims.

The ACTU is digesting the detail of the report today and expects to make formal contact with the company in the near future.

The ACTU wishes to hear a more comprehensive public response from the company indicating a preparedness to fund compensation, and to meet with ACTU and asbestos victims’ representatives without conditions.

The silence from the James Hardie board of directors on the key issue of providing a guarantee that the James Hardie company will fully meet the compensation requirements of present and future asbestos victims is deafening.”