• Private certifier gets nailed – depaNews November 2010
  • Wake up and don't worry - depaNews February 2011
  • HR professionals – depaNews January 2009
  • Upper Hunter gets coy – depaNews March 2011
  • BPB kills off B1 & B2 - depaNews July 2009
  • Councillors behaving badly Part One - depaNews December 2009
  • Councillors behaving badly Part Two - depaNews December 2009
  • Who is Peter Hurst? - depaNews August 2010
  • It's time to go, Peter Part One - depaNews September 2006
  • It's time to go Peter Part Two - depaNews December 2006
  • BPB survey on accreditation – depaNews November 2008
  • Improbable things start to come true – depaNews June 2010
  • Sex, lies and development – depaNews February 2008
  • Pizza man feeds non-members – depaNews April 2011
  • Bankstown wins HR Award – depaNews December 2010
  • Love him or loathe him - depaNews October 2007
  • Good Bad & Ugly issue – depaNews November 2010
  • Upper Hunter lets the dogs out - depaNews February 2011
  • IRC puts brakes on belligerent seven – depaNews June 2009
  • It's Tweedledum and not Tweedledumber - depaNews March 2007
  • 28 April International Day of Mourning - depaNews April 2009
  • IRC orders Hurst 'apology' published - depaNews December 2010
  • Debate on IR policy – depaNews August 2007
  • Developer agrees to apologise – depaNews November 2010
  • OH&S Day of Mourning – depaNews April 2009

The Development and Environmental Professionals' Association (depa)

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OH&S Day of Mourning – depaNews April 2009

James Hardie cartoon – April 2009

28 April is the International Day of Mourning

The International Day of Morning commemorates those who have been killed or injured at work. It is a sobering and confronting reminder of something we don't really think about - normal people, just like us, who go to work and don't come home. Its something that happens that not just means a death at work but a personal impact on workmates and a devastating impact on friends and family.

There is no legislative obligation in Australia requiring companies to report in their annual reports lost time due to illness or injuries or death. It makes it very hard to work out whether it is more dangerous to work, for example, for BHP, Lend Lease or Leightons Holdings - just picking three at random. These are all big Australian public companies in which institutional investors like superannuation funds would be long-term investors.

Good health and safety at work is a fundamental and critical part of how a company should be assessed. The concept of shareholder value or providing a profit to shareholders should not override the human cost involved in delivering that value or profit.

BHP in their last reported year killed 11 employees at work and this year to date its 7. At least in BHP's annual report, the statistic is easily found at the front of the report in a prominent way and is dealt with as something which is unacceptable and needs to be improved. Leightons Holdings, for example, make the information hard to find and, in leaving it to much, much later in the report, fails to provide proper recognition of its importance. On an hours worked basis, their figures are worse.

Companies report deaths and injuries in different ways. As a proportion of the workforce, as a proportion of market capitalisation and sometimes in relation to hours worked - but never consistently so that comparisons can be made. Governments should act to make sure they do.

These statistics are a stark indication of things that happen that shouldn't happen and which create incalculable human suffering and misery. Think for a minute how it would be if someone in your household didn’t return from work.

And when you think of companies doing the wrong things about health and safety, it is an appropriate coincidence that the Supreme Court last week found a string of company directors from James Hardie guilty of telling porkies about a media release (which the minutes show had been adopted by the Board) that was untruthful about how the company was funding its huge liability arising from killing its own workers.

Company Chair (who insisted on being described as a Chairman) Meredith Hellicar (picture above) bore the brunt. Described by Justice Gzell as "a most unsatisfactory witness", Hellicar and the rest of the Board were convicted of misleading the public. This conviction also coincided with admissions by James Hardie that the Global Financial Crisis would challenge their ability to finance their compensation fund.

In Business Day in the Sydney Morning Herald on 24 April, Elizabeth Knight said this:

"But as this chapter closes on the great James Hardie saga, one cannot help but wonder about how a company that has for decades played hard and fast with schemes to minimise tax, restructuring to avoid its obligations to compensate its victims, and meddled with the truth, can have survived.

It has been forced to repay liabilities, shamed by unions, governments and victims, publicly flogged by the media, been the subject of a special commission and ultimately brow-beaten into appropriately compensating its victims."

How has it survived, knowing what we know about how it has conducted its business? Simple really, virtually all big institutional investors would be invested in James Hardie (even as they acknowledge its poor governance and health and safety) and in a terribly sad irony, even the superannuation funds to which the dead and dying James Hardie employees belong.

It's time someone found a way of bringing these companies to account.

Why shouldn't there be a legislative requirement that companies call an Extraordinary General Meeting of shareholders whenever there is a death at work? Why shouldn't there be a standard and consistent reporting framework so that institutional investors (and even ordinary members of the community who want to work out which company they think is a good one and which company isn't) can, when they are valuing a company to make a judgement about investment consider how many people they kill and as well as things like their price:earnings ratio?

The James Hardie convictions make us all aware that companies have moral obligations to the community, and those who work for them, as well as a financial obligation to shareholders.

The Herald got it right in their editorial on Monday 27 April:

"The core legal argument of James Hardie is that it was not the company's fault that people died terrible deaths. It was the fault of subsidiary companies, not the parent company. Therefore the liability lay with them. The compensation trust set up by the parent company went beyond its legal requirements. Misleading comments were made by the public relations department, not the board or senior management.

That, in a compressed nutshell, is the James Hardie case. It is morally repugnant, and transparently so."

Robbo's Pearls...

Combined Unions defeat NSW Government in the High Court

At 2:15pm this afternoon the Full Court of the High Court handed down their judgment in the Combined Unions’ challenge to the NSW Government. The challenge had sought to have the Court declare changes to the Electoral Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981 unconstitutional. These changes, incorporated in the Electoral Funding Act 2018, reduced limits on expenditure of third-party campaigners from $1 million-$500,000, reduced the capacity of unions working together by retaining the $500,000 limit regardless of how many unions are involved, and introduced jail terms of up to 2 years for breaches.

It’s hard to imagine any better way of starting the new year than rolling the Government. This afternoon, the High Court did precisely that and, to make our victory total and glorious, awarded costs against the Government as well.

Well done to Unions NSW for organising this and all those NSW unions - including the three local government unions - who supported it financially.

We’ve covered the offensive nature of these legislative changes in depaNews in October and November.  The Government reduced the effectiveness of third-party campaigners - which also includes churches, community groups, GetUp, the NRMA, pro and anti-carbon lobbying groups, the Lock the Gate Alliance etc.  Only tyrants and opponents of democracy and transparency try to reduce the effectiveness of political opponents and frustrate the right of opponents to properly campaign and run their argument.

Shame on you, Gladys and all your lot.

We’ve not yet read the judgment in full, preferring to get out the basic win or lose news, but will let you know if we find any juicy or damning bits in the February issue of depaNews.

And just to show you how even-handed we are, in the interests of balance, here is a picture of the Premier having a happier day two weeks ago waving to a driverless and passengerless train successfully arriving at Chatswood Station. No driver, no passengers, but it was on time.  Now there’s commitment to public transport.


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