Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Fund

About this Item
SubjectsJames Hardie Industries; Superannuation; Members of Parliament: Salaries Pensions and Allowances
SpeakersRhiannon Ms Lee; Della Bosca The Hon John
BusinessQuestions Without Notice

Page: 13464

    Ms LEE RHIANNON: I direct my question without notice to the Special Minister of State. Is he aware that the Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Fund, which is asset managed by Citigroup, had a $168,582 investment in James Hardie Industries as at June 2004? Will he request the fund's trustees to either remove Citigroup as an asset manager and replace it with an ethical investment fund, or write to Citigroup and ask it to sell the Hardie stake?

    The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: I thank the honourable member for her question. I had a feeling of déjà vu, and then I realised that I had heard about this very point yesterday. I am unable to remember in which debate it was referred to. Did Ms Lee Rhiannon raise the point yesterday?

    Ms Lee Rhiannon: Yes, in the debate on the Special Commission of Inquiry (James Hardie Records) Bill.

    The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: That is how I became aware of it; I had not been aware of it until then. Even though Ms Lee Rhiannon raised the issue last night during debate in the Chamber, I have not yet had the opportunity to check whether her assertions are correct. However, for the sake of argument, I will assume that she is correct. As I said in yesterday's debate, the Government has articulated a series of initiatives about the reluctance of James Hardie to adequately provide compensation for asbestosis victims. The Government—through the Premier, me, other senior Ministers and other Ministers right across various forums involved in the asbestosis issue and the current recalcitrance of James Hardie, which I am hoping will draw to a conclusion very shortly—has expressed a view on the company adequately compensating people.

    As the Premier said, the Government, as a James Hardie shareholder and a consumer of products from the various building material companies, will do whatever is necessary to communicate to James Hardie in a staged fashion whatever level of protest is required to force the company to conclude negotiations in a manner that will secure adequate compensation for asbestosis victims for the future. I happily acknowledge, on behalf of the honourable members of this Chamber and the broader community, that the New South Wales Government is apparently joined in its approach—at least hypothetically at this stage—by the Commonwealth Government, which is adopting a similar attitude. I am heartened by its reaction.

    All actions concerning sanctions on the use of James Hardie products by the Government, which contracts for a lot of building business—from a consumer point of view, from a distribution point of view, or, as Ms Lee Rhiannon has indicated, from a shareholder point of view—will be considered in a staged fashion if James Hardie continues to be recalcitrant in regard to the compensation issue. Some of those measures have been put in place.

    The Hon. Duncan Gay: What are you guys doing about your part of the compensation?

    The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has asked a completely unrelated question. The Government will not take any action in relation to James Hardie until it has considered the issues concerning funds that are being managed. The extreme end of the argument involves the Government's fiduciary obligations under various trusts and boards appointed by it. Clearly, that is a matter that will require extensive community debate.

    The short answer to the question is that I do not think the Government is even contemplating giving serious consideration to action that would direct any of the trusts over which it has influence or control, or boards of companies, to change their investment behaviour in relation to James Hardie because the proceedings are well short of that mark. As I have indicated to Ms Lee Rhiannon, the Premier said we will do whatever is required to force James Hardie to a proper conclusion of discussions regarding compensation.