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Bernie Banton

Bernard Douglas (Bernie) Banton AM (13 October 1946-27 November 2007) was an Australian social justice campaigner. He was the widely-recognised face of the legal and political campaign to achieve compensation for the many sufferers of asbestos-related conditions, which they contracted after either working for the company James Hardie or being exposed to James Hardie Industries' products.

Bernie himself suffered from asbestosis, Asbestos-Related Pleural Disease (ARPD) and then finally peritoneal mesothelioma. These conditions required him to carry an oxygen tank wherever he went. The 2009 book Killer Company details Banton's fight against James Hardie.[1]

Banton brought an action against Amaca Pty Ltd before the Dust Diseases Tribunal of New South Wales.[2]

Other campaigning

In October 2007, in the midst of the 2007 federal election campaign, Banton expressed his disgust at Minister for Health Tony Abbott, calling him "a gutless creep" for not attending an arranged meeting at his electorate office in Sydney to be presented with a petition to include a mesothelioma drug on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Abbott, who had been in Victoria at the time, dismissed the petition as a "stunt" and implied that, despite his illness, Banton's motives were not "pure of heart". Abbott later apologised, but did not back away from his criticism.[3]

In his victory speech on 24 November after winning the election, the Prime Minister-elect Kevin Rudd paid special tribute to Banton, saying that he represented the "great Australian trade union movement" and was a beacon of decency in his fight for compensation.[4]

Bernie Banton died at his home on 27 November, just three days after the election.[5]


In the Queen's Birthday Honours of 13 June 2005 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia "for service to the community, particularly as an advocate for people affected by asbestos-related illnesses".[6]

Banton's family accepted the NSW government's offer of a state funeral, which was held on 5 December 2007. Both the Australian and the NSW state flags were lowered to half mast that day on all NSW government buildings and establishments, as a mark of respect.[7]

On 21 January 2009, a new asbestos diseases research institute at Sydney's Concord Repatriation General Hospital was named the Bernie Banton Centre.[8] The facility is the world's first standalone research facility dedicated to the treatment and prevention of asbestos-related diseases.[9] The Bernie Banton Bridge, which carries Marsden Street over the Parramatta River in Parramatta also bears his name.

Banton also has a foundation named in his honour. The Bernie Banton Foundation is an Australian not-for-profit organisation devoted to asbestos awareness, asbestos education and advocacy on behalf of asbestos victims. The foundation "aims to make a difference by helping to alleviate exposure to asbestos, in the hope of eventual eradication of asbestos related disease.[10] The foundation was launched by the Prime Minister, The Hon Kevin Rudd, on September 11, 2009 at Sydney's Concord Repatriation General Hospital.[11]

See also


  1. Angela Welsh. Review: Killer Company The Walkley Foundation, 27 October 2009.
  2. "Banton v Amaca Pty Ltd [2007] NSWDDT 29". Retrieved 2014-06-19. 
  3. Doherty, Ben: Abbott adamant over Banton 'stunt', The Age, 31 October 2007.
  4. Victorious Rudd Looks to the Future, ABC, 24 November 2007.
  5. Asbestos battler Bernie Banton finds peace at last, The Age, 27 November 2007.
  6. It's an Honour
  7. Flags at half mast for Bernie Banton - The Sydney Morning Herald
  8. "Kevin Rudd opens Bernie Banton asbestos diseases and research institute". The Australian. 2009-01-21. 
  9. "Mesothelioma in Australia". 
  10. "Bernie Banton Foundation - About Us". Retrieved 2014-06-19. 
  11. "PM launches Bernie Banton Foundation". 2009-09-11. Retrieved 2014-06-19. 

External links

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