ACTU Secretary Greg Combet today welcomed the release of the report by Mr Jackson QC in the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry into the under-funding by James Hardie of its asbestos liabilities.
Mr Combet said that the report vindicated the stance taken by unions and asbestos disease support groups.
“Mr Jackson has clearly found that the purpose of the corporate restructuring undertaken by James Hardie in 2001 was to remove the company from the ‘stigma’ of its asbestos liabilities. In doing so he has made serious findings against company executives, particularly CEO Peter MacDonald, who may face charges under the Corporations Act for misleading and deceptive conduct,” said Mr Combet.
The report also argues that James Hardie have an obligation to meet the asbestos liabilities that it has attempted to escape. Mr Jackson states in the report that:
‘JHI NV (the company) still has in its pockets the profits made by dealing in asbestos, and those profits are large enough to satisfy most, perhaps all, of the claims of victims of James Hardie asbestos.’
Mr Combet said that the report overall is a damning indictment on the conduct of James Hardie and its senior officers.
“The key thing now is for James Hardie to accept its responsibility and pay up. The ACTU stands ready to negotiate with the company to resolve this issue and to ensure that all future claims by victims of Hardie products are met.
“The solution is simple and it is pointed to by Mr Jackson – the company simply needs to make periodic payments to the Medical Research and Compensation Foundation each year which are sufficient to meet the claims of victims.”