Bernie Banton

Bernie Banton

Bernard Douglas (Bernie) Banton AM (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 working for the company James Hardie.

Banton suffered from asbestosis, mesothelioma and Asbestos-Related Pleural Disease (ARPD), which required him to carry an oxygen tank wherever he went.

Working life

In 1968, Banton got a job, through his brother Ted, at James Hardie's Camellia facility in Sydney's western suburbs. At this site, Banton was involved with the production of various asbestos products: fibro (asbestos sheeting), pipes, telecommunication pits, and other products.

He left this job in 1974, while 137 others continued at the facility. As of 2004, approximately only ten of these former employees were still alive. Banton's brother Ted died in 2001 of mesothelioma, a virulent cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

Other campaigning

In October 2007, in the midst of the 2007 federal election campaign, Banton expressed his disgust at Minister for Health Tony Abbott for not attending a pre-arranged meeting at Abbott's electorate office in Sydney to present the minister 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. [Doherty, Ben: [ Abbott adamant over Banton 'stunt'] , "The Age", 31 October 2007.]

In his victory speech on 24 November after winning the election, the Prime Minister-elect Kevin Rudd paid special tribute to Banton, saying that Bernie represented the "great Australian trade union movement" and was a beacon of decency in his fight for compensation. [ [ Victorius Rudd Looks to the Future] , "ABC", 24 November 2007.]

Bernie Banton died at his home on 27 November, just three days after the election. [ [ Asbestos battler Bernie Banton finds peace at last] , "The Age", 27 November 2007.]


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". [ [ It's an Honour] ]

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. [ [ Flags at half mast for Bernie Banton] - The Sydney Morning Herald]


External links

*cite news |url= |title=Bernie and Karen Banton |work=Enough Rope |publisher=Australian Broadcasting Corporation |date=2006-07-10 |accessdate=2006-09-15
*cite news |url= |work=The Age |title=Bernie hopes for justice in time for Christmas |author=Miranda Wood |date=2004-12-19 |accessdate=2006-09-15
* [ IMF biography]

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