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Asbestos Diseases Foundation welcomes Hardie -

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Asbestos Diseases Foundation welcomes Hardie finding

The World Today - Thursday, 23 April , 2009 12:14:00

Reporter: Alison Caldwell

PETER CAVE: The Asbestos Diseases Foundation has welcomed the court's decision.

Alison Caldwell spoke to the group's Barry Robson.

BARRY ROBSON: Justice at last! The court system has finally caught up with the company and the
directors and the management team, the whole lot. They've all been found guilty of a charge.

And isn't it amazing? On the day this judgement was going to be handed down they announced that
there was not enough money in the fund to fund future compensation victims. Am I being cynical by
saying that they did it on purpose? Yes they did. And all they've done is scare the victims and
future claimants that there's not going to be enough money. Typical Hardies.

But please, finally there's been a bit of justice in this long, sorry saga.

ALISON CALDWELL: The Supreme Court ruled that 10 company officials including the former chief
executive engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct when it set up the trust to compensate
victims of asbestos-related diseases. You always knew that I guess.

BARRY ROBSON: We always knew it but now, now that it's been found by the court, something that we
all knew but couldn't prove. But now it's been done and if this company had not tried to evade or
dodge $150-million in back taxes that they've had to pay, then there would be plenty of money in
that fund.

ALISON CALDWELL: It was a bit of a mixed ruling in that not all of the charges brought by ASIC were
proven. Are you concerned about that?

BARRY ROBSON: Not really. Not really. That happens in a lot of cases. At least the court, you know,
it has found them guilty of something rather than letting them just walk away, you know, scott free
as in the past. And it's right across all of their companies. It's not just one person or one of
the companies but all of it, the whole sorry saga of Hardie.

This saga has contributed to the loss of profits of Hardie. This is a great Australian company, it
was very profitable until they got the corporate mindset to do what they did and that was a
slippery slide.

And the trouble is we need to keep Hardie going as a profitable company to pay for victims'
compensation into the future.

ALISON CALDWELL: Just on James Hardie Industries saying it can't contribute any more to that
asbestos diseases fund, wasn't this sort of flagged during the negotiations? What happens in a
downturn? Wasn't this flagged all those years ago?

BARRY ROBSON: It was and the mechanism that's in the agreement is that they can apply to the courts
here in New South Wales and have the agreement modified so that they can pay not lump sums any more
but pay out in instalments so that, you know, the money is spread further.

So we're not really worried about it at this stage, you know. Let's hope that the US economy picks
up, especially in the housing market, and that will put Hardie back on top.

ALISON CALDWELL: Why is it so important that the housing market in the US recovers?

BARRY ROBSON: Because 80 per cent of the profits of James Hardie now come out of the US, out of the
building industry in the United States and that's part of the problem.

PETER CAVE: The president of the Asbestos Diseases Foundation Barry Robson speaking to Alison
Caldwell.