Bernie Banton

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Bernard Douglas (Bernie) Banton AM (13 October 1946[1] – 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, pleural mesothelioma and Asbestos-Related Pleural Disease (ARPD), which required him to carry an oxygen tank wherever he went. The 2009 book Killer Company opens with the true account of Bernie Banton.[2]

Banton brought an action against Amaca Pty Ltd before the Dust Diseases Tribunal of New South Wales.[3]

Other campaigning[edit]

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.[4]

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.[5]

Bernie Banton died at his home on 27 November, just three days after the election.[6]


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".[7]

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.[8]

On 21 January 2009, a new asbestos diseases research institute at Sydney's Concord Repatriation General Hospital was named the Bernie Banton Centre.[9] The Bernie Banton Bridge, which carries Marsden Street over the Parramatta River in Parramatta also bears his name.

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