The website begins by compiling and referencing content from publicly available sources and the medical, political, historical, and legal literatures. We acknowledge the prior efforts and material of journalists, scholars, lawyers, and others who have spoken out on asbestos-related matters over the last century (especially the work of Jock McCulloch, Geoffrey Tweedale, and Matt Peacock[i]). Publication of this material required, and still requires, courage, as many sources cite examples of the industry and its supporters providing funding or creating positions in return for silence, or using threats against or disparaging employees, researchers, doctors, lawyers, and plaintiffs.[ii]
Our researchers seek to analyse and contribute to the existing mosaics of information to better understand:
We struggled to find sourced information that addresses the following critical questions:
Public Health & Policy Framework
Truth Telling & Voice of Sufferers
Our research suggests all these topics have been suppressed within public forums and are barely discussed or not debated at all in academic circles. Most of the existing literature is limited to discussion on medical or compensation issues.[iii] Our researchers found no peer-reviewed articles in Australia from any discipline that detail the full history of asbestos in Australia, the long-term human and societal harms resulting from legacy asbestos, the responses by the industry and the federal and state governments to asbestos fatalities and ongoing risks, or the legal or public health settings governing legacy asbestos in homes.
Answers to these questions (or at least acknowledgement of the need to publicly debate these matters) are fundamental to properly comprehend the true scale and burdens of the asbestos crisis and to save lives. Without an understanding of these matters, “the status quo” settings will likely continue and thousands more Australian lives will be lost needlessly from preventable diseases. This belief forms the “fire in the belly” of our researchers, and is the foundation driving the establishment of the company and its website.
Our website content will evolve as information and resources come to hand and the debates deepen. The organisation of the topics and content across webpages is intended to present an interconnected story. Some content is repeated, so that topics can be read on a stand-alone basis.
Notably, some content had to be omitted from this website for legal reasons. While the defamation rules in Australia are intended to protect the reputation of persons, these frameworks can hinder substantive debate and criticism, especially when the topics are commercially and politically sensitive and there are large imbalances in the power and resources of those involved.
Our primary aim is to prevent future occurrences of harmful exposure to asbestos and related deaths. Comprehensive discussion of personal injury compensation matters is purposely left to others, as the payment of compensation to sufferers of asbestos-related diseases (when this occurs) is not equivalent to saving a person’s live and should never be thought of as a satisfactory alternate to preventative measures that seek to prevent lethal exposure from occurring. Given a choice, we doubt that any sufferer would opt for compensation rather than the chance to have more years with their family and loved ones.[iv]
[i] One anonymous reviewer of an article we submitted for publication consideration suggested the books by Matt Peacock and Gideon Haigh are not evidence based. We reject this claim. Both books provide clear sources for the content provided and include interviews with senior executives from the industry. Indeed, many of the sources cited by these authors are the same as those used by scholars.
[ii] See, eg, Matt Peacock, Killer Company (Harper Collins Publishers, 2009) 79, 167; Defending the Indefensible 96-97. See also Chris Smyth, ‘Uncovering the Story: Asbestos in the Media’ in Lenore Layman and Gail Phillips (eds), Asbestos in Australia: From Boom to Bust (Monash University Publishing, 2019) 115, 126 “Asbestos in Australia”; John Gordon, ‘The History of Asbestos Litigation’ in Asbestos in Australia 227; P Brodeur, Outrageous Misconduct: The Asbestos Industry on Trial (Pantheon, New York, 1985).
[iii] See, eg, Peta Spender, ‘Blue Asbestos and Golden Eggs: Evaluating Bankruptcy and Class Actions as Just Responses to Mass Tort Liability’ (2003) 25 Sydney Law Review 223; Harold Luntz, ‘A Personal Journey through the Law of Torts’ (2005) 27 Sydney Law Review 393, 409; James McConville, ‘Directors’ Duties to Stakeholders: A Reform Proposal Based on Three False Assumptions’ (2005) 13 Australian Journal of Corporate Law 1. Luntz argues that a systems approach is much more effective in reducing accidents than imposing liability on individuals. A similar argument can be applied to the asbestos crisis. It is much better to ensure systems and policies are in place that prevent harmful exposure to asbestos from occurring than to pay compensation to victims once they have been diagnosed with an asbestos related disease.
[iv] See, eg, Turner Freeman Lawyers, ‘Adelaide: Full Court Upholds Precedent-Setting Asbestos Victory; Confirms James Hardie Owed Duty of Care to Warn Home Renovators of Asbestos Risks’ (Media Release, 22 December 2020). This releases cites Werfel. He states that ‘compensation doesn’t make up for the decades of life I have been robbed of by James Hardie’s negligence. I will miss out on so many important milestones that most people take for granted, such as seeing my daughters grow up and have families of their own.’