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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 2068

Mr LATHAM (2:06 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Given the reprehensible actions of James Hardie in shifting its assets to the Netherlands and denying compensation funds to the victims of asbestos related diseases, does the Prime Minister acknowledge that more needs to be done to assist the victims and their families? Given that the Labor Party has now paid to the Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia the money we received in donations from James Hardie since February 2001, will the Prime Minister ensure that the Liberal Party does the same?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —In relation to James Hardie, let me make it quite clear that any company which has been found to have reorganised its affairs to prevent the fulfilment of its obligations to former employees has behaved reprehensibly, and I have no qualification or equivocation in saying that. I have indicated that. The Treasurer has indicated that. But I also point out that there is a process under way, and that process is a commission of inquiry established by the New South Wales government. I also point out to the Leader of the Opposition that the rearrangement which has been spoken of was approved by the Supreme Court of New South Wales, and the appropriate thing is to wait until we get the findings of the commission. Then—and then only—I believe there should be an appropriate response. But let me make it clear as a general principle that we will have no truck with any corporation in this country that is found to have rearranged its affairs to frustrate its legal obligation to its former employees. But, equally, we have no truck with political parties that rort rents to enrich themselves. If the Leader of the Opposition wanted a bit of high ground on political donations he would learn how to spell Centenary House.