David MacFarlane, former managing director of James Hardie Industries, outside the hearing.

David MacFarlane, former managing director of James Hardie Industries, outside the hearing. Photo: Anthony Johnson A

The man credited with deciding in 1978 to eliminate asbestos from James Hardie products said he thought at the time that widespread health concern about its use in building materials was a “media beat-up”.

David MacFarlane was the managing director of James Hardie Industries between 1978 and 1989 and has never before given evidence about his role in the company, which manufactured and distributed building and other products containing asbestos.

He told the Dust Diseases Tribunal in Sydney on Tuesday that on taking the top job he received a brief from the Hardie board.

Stephen Wickham, who is suing James Hardie, with his wife Wendy outside the James Hardie ( Amaca Pty Ltd ) hearing.

Stephen Wickham, who is suing James Hardie, with his wife Wendy outside the hearing. Photo: Anthony Johnson

“My job was to get rid of asbestos … just to do it as quickly as possible,” he said.

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