House debates

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Constituency Statements

James Hardie

9:55 am

Photo of Gary GrayGary Gray (Brand, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Western and Northern Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to discuss a matter recently published in a book called Killer Company by Matt Peacock, a book about James Hardie and about James Hardie’s actions in seeking to deal with asbestos issues. In that book the author records as follows:

Baxter quickly sought advice from Hardie’s other PR consultant, Gavin Anderson and Co, which suggested hiring Stephen Loosley, a former secretary of the New South Wales Labor Party and then consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he had been joined by the former national secretary of the Labor Party, Gary Gray.

At no time have I ever worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers. At no time have I ever provided advice to James Hardie. At no time have I ever been a paid consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers. Indeed, this allegation as recorded by the author, Matt Peacock, followed an article in the Sydney Morning Herald five years ago which prompted me to write a letter to the editor which was published in that newspaper. In his article about the James Hardie inquiry, ‘Guns are trained on Hardie’s messenger’, in the Sydney Morning Herald dated 24 September that year, Richard Ackland wrongly asserted that I had been engaged by James Hardie to work for it behind the scenes. The facts are as follows. In 2000 I worked for the West Australian Institute for Medical Research. One of the research projects was on mesothelioma, funded in part and for many years by James Hardie. The research was highly regarded. I approached James Hardie in late 2000 specifically with regard to its funding of this research. During that approach I was asked if I was able to work for James Hardie as a consultant. I said I was not able to work for it but that I might be able to if I accepted a position, which I was at that time considering, as a consultant to the legal firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. As things worked out, I did not work for that legal firm. I did not work for James Hardie and I received no payment from James Hardie, and I did not provide it with any advice. I was not engaged to work behind the scenes, and I said in that letter that if Mr Ackland had checked his facts with me he would have known that to be the case.

Unfortunately, it is the case that Matt Peacock did check the facts with me and I did inform Matt that at no time had I ever worked as a consultant to PricewaterhouseCoopers and at no time had I worked as a consultant to James Hardie. I find the way in which Mr Peacock has recorded this fact pattern to be both bizarre and inaccurate. He could have done better in order to better illustrate his story of the need for adequacy in the funding vehicle which was to be created by James Hardie to fund future actions with regard to victims of asbestosis. I am more than prepared to say to Matt Peacock that his book is a fine piece of work. I have not found any other inaccuracies in it and regard it to be an excellent study of the dynamics and the consequences of Hardie’s actions.

Photo of Ms Anna BurkeMs Anna Burke (Chisholm, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! In accordance with standing order 193, the time for members’ constituency statements has concluded.