The AMWU has welcomed the decision by the High Court of Australia in finding James Hardie Directors had breached their duties over its compensation fund to asbestos victims.
AMWU National Secretary, Paul Bastian a long time campaigner for the rights of asbestos victims, welcomed the decision as a win in holding company Directors to account but questioned whether lessons had really been learnt given that Corporations Laws have not been tightened.
The court has found the company knowingly and deliberately mislead the Stock Exchange by issuing a statement that its compensation fund was “fully funded” when it was anything but.
"Today’s High Court decision upholds that the James Hardie Directors and Executives tried to avoid their responsibilities by making misleading statements about the compensation they had put in place.
"It is strongly welcomed by workers and their unions. But the question that still remains is whether the Corporations Law is adequate in prosecuting Directors and Executives for their transgressions and whether Directors and Executives understand their wrongdoings.” Said Mr Bastian.
“The Corporations Law needs real teeth to stop fraudulent conveyancing of finances and to be able to pierce the veil of multiple company holdings. It also needs to hold corporate Directors to account for their moral behaviours and to be able to impose lasting and meaningful penalties on them such as having to attend death-bed hearings of victims and their families or imposing heavy community duty fines.
"This is not simply about numbers on the bottom line or about misleading statements. It is about people’s lives. That’s why it is critical that we make sure the law is able to ensure Directors engaged in such behaviour fully accept their responsibilities, are taught life altering lessons and don’t ever believe they are above the law or moral decency.” Said Mr. Bastian.