Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Monday, 20 December 2010

James Hardie

The James Hardie compensation case provides an accurate commentary on the moral vacuum in which many multi-national corporations operate.

In its simplicity, the history goes like this -
James Hardie has been mining, manufacturing and distributing asbestos and its products since before it was listed on the Australian stock exchange in 1951.

These products caused many people to develop asbestosis and or mesothelioma.
Asbestosis is a chronic inflammatory and fibrotic medical condition which affects the lungs. Sufferers experience severe shortness of breath. They often develop malignancies including lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma, (also called malignant mesothelioma) is a form of cancer that develops from the protective lining that covers many of the body's internal organs, the mesothelium.

Malignant mesothelioma is always fatal. It destroys quality of life, as the sufferer becomes increasingly short of breath until a point is reached where normal activity is impossible. There is no cure.

The total number of claims made against James Hardie for asbestos-related diseases is estimated to be more than 12,500, of which 8103 will be claimed after 2006.
Individuals continue to be diagnosed, and these diagnoses are expected to peak in 2010 or 2011 at 250 per year.

Hardie had been reluctantly providing compensation for victims since the 1980s. The multiplication of cases from the 1980s onwards forced the acknowledgement that it had known asbestos to be dangerous. However, it wasn't until 1978 that the company began putting warning labels on its products explaining that inhalation of the dust could result in cancer. They stopped manufacturing asbestos products in March 1987.

Think about it. Hardie continued to make and sell a product which killed people slowly. They did this for at least twenty years in the full knowledge that it was dangerous. Tens of thousands of people have been affected.

Now that is a tragedy - but Hardie compounded it by issuing a press statement in February 2001 claiming that a compensation fund that they had set up was fully funded, giving victims hope. 

It wasn't.

Subsequently, Hardie moved its operations offshore (to the Netherlands) to avoid the possibility of Australian civil action targeting its corporate assets for compensation.

ASIC took them to the NSW Supreme Court on the strength of this false statement, but due to incompetence on the part of the ASIC legal team, an appeal against the previous verdict - that the executives involved knowingly made these false statements - was overturned.

So what's the moral of the story? Essentially, that if your corporation is big enough and wealthy enough, you can get away with murder. You can also move your assets offshore so that they are safe from legitimate compensatory action on the part of victims.

We have tabloid junk-peddlers like Bolt frothing at the mouth about the tragic death of asylum seekers at Christmas island, but nary a post about 12,500 Australians killed by a multi-national.
The only time he's posted about James Hardie was in an attempt to discredit Labor because one of its advisers did some contract work for Hardie - kind of three levels removed - but the direct connection between Hardie and the asbestos deaths have been ignored by right wing commentators.

But then, commerce is sacred. Human life? Well, it depends…..


cav said...

Hey 1735099, a little upset I see.

My mate, a Vietnam Veteran, died earlier this year from mesothelioma. His wife got two lots of compensation.

Are you saying now that this compensation will stop?

I am also perplexed as to point you are trying to make by linking this to one conservative journalist for his failure to report on, as you say, murder.

Does this mean you are satisfied with the reports from other journalists?

You must be, otherwise you would be naming and shaming them.

Yet I can't seem to find anyone saying much of anything about it, certainly not the opinion writers.

If the point of your post is to point out that Bolt is a hypocrite for 'frothing at the mouth' over the lives lost at Christmas Island and is silent about the deaths from asbestos, then I don't think you have made your case very convincing.

The real tragedy is that Howard stopped the boats and Rudd, using Gillard's plan, saw a huge increase in boat numbers and unfortunately deaths.

This is fact, no?

Bolt is right to 'froth at the mouth' over this as he was warning the govt. that there would be more deaths as a result of the change of policy. He did this for more than 12 months; ans he was proved right.

The only reason it is in the news now is because we actually see the people drowning.

And what do we find?

Other journalists blaming the Navy for the deaths, blaming the weather, blaming the rickety wooden boat, blaming anyone but the govt; yet you are silent on this point.

Have a go at journalists by all means, but picking on a conservative journalist with whom you disagree and then insinuating that he believes commerce is more sacred than human life seems to me to be drawing a rather long bow.

I have a lot of respect for what you write 1735099, but not in this case.

1735099 said...

The loss of life at Christmas Island last week was a tragedy - no question. Blaming the federal government to push a political meme was shameful - and there's no doubt Bolt did this - over and over again, in fact. He follows at least two of Joseph Goebbels 19 principles - the one that says "A propaganda theme must be repeated" (principle 13c). He also uses principle 18 - "Propaganda must facilitate the displacement of aggression by specifying the targets for hatred"
You're right about the point of my post. He is entirely selective. As I pointed out, you won't find any criticism of James Hardie in his material.
I'm not sure why he takes their side, but I can't see any other reason except an ideological fixation about the sanctity of commerce. If it's not this - why?

Howard didn't stop the boats. The factors behind the steep rise in numbers relate to circumstances beyond the control of the Australian authorities. Remember the Vietnamese boat people? Did we have any pollies pushing slogans such as "stop the boats" back then?
It took Howard in 2001 to use the Tampa incident to create political division over a humanatarian issue and whip up fear and hate to create an election meme. By doing this he forever destroyed the "fair go" value that had been part of our national psyche since the abolution of the White Australia Policy.

If you read the history, you'll find that the solution to the Vietnamese "problem" was the establishment of processing centres in places like Malaysia, using the good graces of our neighbours to the North. The Coalition has raised the political temperature around this issue to the extent that such a solution is probably no longer possible.
Apart from the tragedy of SIEV X on 19 October 2001, which killed 353 people on Howard's watch, and which Bolt ignores, the greatest tragedy of all is the loss of our national identity on the altar of political expediency..
Bolt should be ashamed of himself.

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