A senior asbestos lawyer has welcomed today’s move by the NSW State Government to increase the loan amount available to the James Hardie compensation fund – the Australian Injuries Compensation Fund – to ensure it can fully compensate asbestos victims.
Slater and Gordon senior asbestos lawyer Joanne Wade said the move was necessary after the AICF claimed last year that the fund will need to pay asbestos victims’ compensation in instalments rather than a lump sum after predicted funding shortfalls.
“James Hardie has a healthy cash flow and an obligation to ensure that all asbestos victims receive the full and fair compensation that they’re entitled to,” Ms Wade said.
“Unfortunately, the AICF predicted funding shortfalls as the nature of the Final Funding Agreement with James Hardies means they only contribute 35 per cent of their free cash flow each year.
“Funding shortfalls were predicted in the future by the AICF saying that victims would have to receive their compensation by instalments. This meant for some victims never seeing their full compensation in their lifetime.
“I applaud today’s move by the NSW Government to step in, where James Hardie has clearly failed to, and remove the re-insurance cap, which allows the AICF to borrow up to the full loan amount, being an additional $106 million.
“The initial loan arrangement between the AICF and the NSW Government was that the loan amount was limited to future insurance recoveries – lifting this requirement has means that there is a further $106 million in potentially available funds.
“The Australian Council of Trade Unions together with Australian unions have worked tirelessly on behalf of victims to lobby the NSW Government – clearly their impassioned pleas to take immediate action have been heard.”
Ms Wade said it was distressing enough for victims living with an asbestos related disease without the added concern about whether they will receive compensation.
“This fund was set up to compensate asbestos victims for pain and suffering, loss of earnings, as well as medical and general living expenses,” she said.
“James Hardie’s first concern should be honouring its commitment and doing all it can to ensure that asbestos victims, particularly those suffering with mesothelioma or lung cancer, are fully compensated.”