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James Hardie promises asbestos fund top-up -

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James Hardie promises asbestos fund top-up

Reporter: Karen Tso

TONY JONES: James Hardie is under fire again for leaving asbestos victims strapped for cash, after
only last week agreeing to a massive termination payout for two senior executives.

The foundation created by James Hardie to pay asbestos claims has warned it faces liquidation
unless there is an immediate injection of funds.

Tonight James Hardie said it would provide more money, but failed to say how much it would make
available.

Here's our finance reporter Karen Tso.

KAREN TSO: The Medical Research and Compensation Foundation is short more than $1 billion to fund
future asbestos claims against James Hardie.

In the meantime, it's sweating on $85 million from the company, almost one-third of the money
promised a couple of years ago but now withheld because of a legal argument.

DENNIS COOPER, COMPENSATION FOUNDATION: If we're to be provided with that money, we would then need
to guarantee that we would not take a legal action against that particular entity.

And our advice is that we're not to give that guarantee.

KAREN TSO: Dennis Cooper says without the cash injection the fund will run out next April.

DENNIS COOPER: If we don't get a resolution of this and we are forced to apply for a voluntary
liquidator, it would be a disastrous situation for victims in the sense that current victims may
well not be paid.

KAREN TSO: The New South Wales Premier has again threatened to lead nationwide boycotts of James
Hardie products.

BOB CARR, NSW PREMIER: The behaviour of the board of James Hardie is simply incredibly bad and
arrogant, and neglectful of the interests of people who are going to have incurable lung cancers
because of exposure to James Hardie products.

KAREN TSO: In a statement filed with the stock exchange late today, James Hardie says it's written
to the Medical Research and Compensation Foundation reaffirming it will provide more money.

But there's been no mention of exactly how much.

The unions too are still waiting for a detailed response to their proposals for a compensation
scheme.

GREG COMBET, ACTU SECRETARY: There's going to be a fearsome backlash in the community about this,
and the unions are going to fight very very hard to bring about a just outcome.

KAREN TSO: But James Hardie is now blaming Dennis Cooper and his colleagues for not providing
crucial data to allow the company to proceed with negotiations.

The unions are believed to have given James Hardie a deadline to respond by the end of the month.