CBD

Welcome back, Meredith Hellicar. The former James Hardie chairman is back in business after serving out her ban over one of the most disgraceful episodes in Australian corporate history.

Welcome back, Meredith Hellicar. The former James Hardie chairman is back in business after serving out her ban over one of the most disgraceful episodes in Australian corporate history.

In 2009, Hellicar copped a five-year ban from managing a corporation for breaching her director's duties by being party to misleading statements about the adequacy of a fund James Hardie set up to pay asbestos victims.

The statement, made in 2001 before James Hardie ran off to the Netherlands, claimed the fund was adequate to meet future claims by the victims. It wasn't.

However, after an appeal all the way up to the High Court last year, Hellicar's penalty was cut, with an end date fixed at April 30.

Lo and behold, on May 22 the ASIC database records Hellicar as being appointed to the board of Bagtrans Group, which owns transport company Bagtrans.

No doubt she'll be most useful at Bagtrans, which specialises in delivering pallets of goods to retailers.

Of course, there won't be much applause from the victims of James Hardie's asbestos. It's hard to clap when you're dead or breathing through a tube.

Hellicar is yet to return CBD's phone call on Sunday to her home in affluent Sydney beachside suburb Mosman.

Holidays to fear

What will it take before tardy politicians wake up and take action against a menace that has cost Australian business billions?

CBD speaks, of course, of public holidays. Yet again the curse of a day off in Australia has struck Newcrest Mining's operations, even those overseas, this time in the shape of a $6 billion writedown announced on Friday - just as everyone was preparing for the Queen's Birthday long weekend.

CBD has previously (April 3) warned its shareholders to beware of public holidays. That came after Newcrest unveiled a gold production downgrade just before the Easter long weekend. It followed a similar downgrade on the eve of Anzac Day, and yet another gold production downgrade just five days before Christmas 2011.

Corporate watchdog ASIC is investigating an apparent leak of the latest downgrade. But CBD suggests a wider probe is needed, perhaps by an inter-agency taskforce, into how the sinister claws of Australian holidays reach overseas to cripple the operations of Newcrest's mines in places like Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

Last time, CBD's crystal ball had a malfunction and we got the date of the next tranche of bad news wrong by plumping for Anzac Day instead of the Queen's Birthday.

And this time the outlook is even murkier, with no nationally observed public holidays until Christmas Day.

This will no doubt be some relief for chief executive Greg Robinson, who must regard the calendar with dread. But it remains to be seen whether state-specific holidays such as Melbourne Cup Day (Victoria, November 5) or Labour Day (NSW, October 7) will have a similar devastating effect.

Etched in stone

Newcrest's cuts are bad news for the company's workers and even worse news for any who've decided to accept a permanent reminder of the mining boom with a tattoo.

Australian Mining magazine has been collecting images of mining tattoos on its Facebook page, and some are very impressive.

There's a woman with a geological cross-section on the back of her shoulder, each different type of rock painstakingly inked; a bloke with a full back tattoo of a mine tunnel, complete with cart and rails; and a touching tatt commemorating the 2010 Pike River disaster, when a New Zealand coal mine exploded killing 29 men.

But CBD's favourite so far would have to be a simple bit of arm ink depicting a crossed pick and shovel and the immortal words: "COAL. I DIG IT."

Got a tip?

bbutler@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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