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Asbestos House
Asbestos House

Asbestos House

The Secret History of James Hardie Industries


448 Pages, 5.25 x 8.25

Trade Paper, $29.99 (US $29.99) (CA $32.99)

Publication Date: September 2008

ISBN 9781921215704

Rights: US & CA

Scribe Publications Pty Ltd. (Sep 2008)

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Founded in 1888, James Hardie Industries is one of Australia's oldest, richest and proudest corporations. And its fortunes were based on what proved to be one of the worst industrial poisons of the twentieth century: asbestos. Asbestos House, the name of the grand headquarters that Hardie built itself in 1929, tells two remarkable tales. It relates the frantic financial engineering in 2001 during which Hardie cut adrift its liabilities to sufferers of asbestos-related disease, the public and political odium that followed, and the extraordinary deal that resulted. It is also the story that the company, knowingly and unknowingly, forgot: how, even as fibro built a nation, the asbestos fibre from which it was made condemned thousands to death. Reconstructed from hundreds of hours of interviews and thousands of pages of documentation, Asbestos House is a multi-award-winning saga of high finance, industrial history, legal intrigue, medical breakthrough and human frailty.


"A serious, sombre and, at times, heart-rending account befitting a tragic and awful story . . . At all times Haigh's research is impeccable. This is the book's great strength—it could become the reference book on all matters relating to asbestos." —Herald Sun

"Meticulously researched and powerfully written . . . This fine book should be required reading for those who wish to understand corporate capitalism and also to promote business ethics." —Weekend Australian

"Reads like a Greek tragedy and is as good." —Australian Financial Review Magazine

"This is a book that should be in any library with a business section. The story is more instructive that tales of colourful villains such as Alan Bond or of corrupt corporations such as Enron . . . Haigh's is a story of people who were unable, or chose not, to deal with profoundly conflicting interests. Subtle and thorough, it's a page-turner." —Peter McLennan, Australian Book Review

"The asbestos that for 90 years was Hardie's core business eventually became a liability, and the story of how the company tried — and continues to try — to distance itself from its past makes for fascinating reading." —Lachlan Jobbins, Australian Bookseller & Publisher 

"Deserves reading by anyone wanting to understand an increasingly rotten strand in modern business culture." —Jack Waterford, Canberra Times 

"This well-written and researched book should appeal to the legal mind, since it recounts how human folly on a grand scale led to an ever-increasing stream of personal damages claims and a commission of enquiry." —Philip Burgess, Law Society Journal 

Author Biography

Gideon Haigh has been writing about sport and business for over twenty years. He began his career as a journalist, writing on business news for the Age newspaper from 1984 to 1992 and for the Australian from 1993 to 1995. He has since contributed to over twenty newspapers and magazines, both on business topics as well as on sport, mostly cricket. Haigh has written or edited over twenty books.