Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Private & public evasion – a hint of double standards

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Integrity in government has long been a dream of mine, but nothing highlights my political rage more than blatant hypocrisy. We see this most clearly in the policies of the Howard government. Hear are several examples:
In response to the James Hardie asbestos scandal, the Federal Government is considering introducing a 10-year jail term for company restructures deliberately aimed at avoiding personal injury compensation. This is fine, but what about the gross evasions of government. Eg. Maralinga nuclear toll, stolen generation, and other public instances of evading public compensation.
The government has tightened rules under the Corporations Law to protect shareholders from dubious executive practices, but there what about the reoccurring incidences of tax evasion and fraud perpetrated by politicians over the years, with no law to discourage them.
Its great that accountability is being adopted, but why now, and why not universally. It stinks of political opportunism, and worse still, the draft bill is so weakly worded to be toothless for the following reasons:
Intentional avoidance could be difficult for prosecutors to prove in court
The bill applies to actions where "where an exceptional number of personal injury claims have arisen out of a company's action or product, and more claims of that nature are expected".
The bill would not apply if the extent of the future liability can be 'reasonably estimated'."
Under current law, claimants for injuries with long latency periods such as asbestos diseases (which takes decades to develop) miss out on a share of winding-up proceeds. It is proposed that liquidators should recognise these latent claims by establishing a trust fund based on actuarial assessments.

News Source: SMH.
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