BERNIE BANTON – THE PUBLIC FACE
How it all began…….. In a David and Goliath battle against James Hardie Industries, Bernie Banton AM, was the public face for asbestos disease sufferers, their loved ones, and the wider community.
Bernie Banton died on the 27th November 2007, after an eight year battle fighting various asbestos related diseases, including in the end, mesothelioma, the terminal cancer only known to have been caused by asbestos. Not only was he living with asbestos related disease, but for much of that time he was fighting James Hardie Industries to set up a fund to compensate victims of asbestos disease, contracted as a result of having been exposed to James Hardie Industries asbestos products.
Bernie and the movement he so ably publicly represented as the public voice and face of the asbestos disease victim, triumphed, with the end result being one of the only ongoing funds of its type in the world, with James Hardie locked into paying 35% of its worldwide free cash flow (profit) into the fund to benefit asbestos victims for at least 40 years. This deal is estimated to be worth in excess of $4.5 billion of compensation to be paid to James Hardie asbestos victims. It could end up being much more, but importantly, unlike ‘Super Funds’ set up in the USA, the funding is ongoing, not a one off payment. Importantly, the way the fund, or scheme, is structured, James Hardie cannot use the fund as a reason to have a planned ‘bankruptcy’!
Bernie’s fight to gain compensation, for all present and future sufferers, exposed to James Hardie asbestos took its toll, with his final, personal battle for his own mesothelioma compensation being won only days before his passing.
Bernie’s final three years were also spent advocating the Federal Government to have the drug Alimta, listed on the PBS for treating mesothelioma. Alimta was placed on the PBS in 2008, after Bernie secured agreement for it to do so shortly before his death – no other drug has been listed on the PBS for treating mesothelioma since!
Many people will remember the iconic scenes of Bernie in a wheelchair, at the then Australian Health Minister, Tony Abbot’s office in Manly (Sydney) NSW. Bernie was complete with oxygen bottles and 17,000 hand signed petitions asking the Government to put Alimta on the PBS (a scene that lives on via YouTube to haunt Mr Abbott to this day). This was about 3 weeks before Bernie succumbed to malignant peritoneal mesothelioma cancer – it was Bernie’s last public media outing!
Bernie passed the 27th of November 2007 ~ he went to his maker with peace in his heart!
Bernie was honoured with a State Funeral held at Sydney’s indoor stadium – Acer Arena where an estimated 3,000 mourners joined Karen and Bernie’s family. The then Prime Minister of Australia, The Hon Kevin Rudd and many other state and federal dignitaries attended and spoke.
Bernie’s achievements were recognised publicly
Bernie Banton Bridge Parramatta NSW
Reflection Park Sydney NSW named by Bernie
NSW Cancer Council