BCA Response to Release of James Hardie Report

The Business Council of Australia said the inquiry into James Hardie and its asbestos liabilities should continue to follow due process and not become a pretext for legislative change that could adversely impact all corporations.

BCA President, Mr Hugh Morgan, said the NSW Commission of Inquiry and its findings released yesterday related to a particular set of circumstances involving James Hardie.

Any response needs to address these particular circumstances and should avoid altering the general law in ways that constrain the corporate sector from pursuing legitimate commercial activities.

The BCA noted that specific matters arising from the inquiry were to be referred to the Australian Securities and Investment Commission and that this was the appropriate forum these matters to be investigated further.

The BCA also noted the Inquiry stopped short of recommending changes to the Corporations Act. While the inquiry found that the James Hardie issue highlighted broader issues in Australian corporate law, addressing those matters would “raise public interest considerations of a wider and more complex kind than it would have been possible or appropriate to consider in the course of this Inquiry” (p. 571 of Inquiry Report). The BCA agrees with the inquiry on the complexity of these issues. Simplistic responses would clearly not work.

“Again, any changes being advocated needed to confine themselves to addressing the particular issues identified by the Inquiry and ensure that legitimate company structures are not inhibited by changes to the law designed to deal with these specific issues,” Mr Morgan said.

The BCA notes that James Hardie is working with asbestos victims and government to look for a means of addressing these issues.

The BCA believes that this is also an appropriate response and that all parties need to continue to work towards a resolution that recognises the interests of those affected by asbestos and the shareholders of James Hardie.