Rest in peace.

Bernie Banton, who will be remembered as the man who led and won the drawn-out battle for compensation from the building products giant James Hardie has died at his home in Sydney.

Mr Banton, who suffered from mesothelioma, died at about 1:00am surrounded by his family. With the backing of the ACTU (Australian Council of Trade Unions), Bernie Banton succeeded in extracting a $4 billion compensation package from James Hardie for all of its former employees affected by asbestos.

His last battle was waged this year, when he won a second personal compensation claim from a James Hardie subsidiary, Amaca, where he worked in the 1960s and 1970s.

Bernie Banton

Posted in life
13 comments on “Rest in peace.
  1. Tony Healy says:

    A hero.

  2. Paul Burns says:

    A wonderful man.
    If there were more like him we’d be a far far better country than we are.
    May he rest in peace.
    As I said on another thread, he deserves a State Funeral, if that’s what his family wants.

  3. gandhi says:

    There’s been a lot of post-election analysis pointing to “Howard’s Battlers” as the population sector which swung this election so decisively against the Coalition. Bernie was a man who they could all relate to, and his story was one which served as a cautionary tale to both blue and white collar workers.

    Thank God he lived to see Howard defeated, and his compensation case settled. One can only imagine that these causes are what kept him going so long – a true battler, if ever there was one!

  4. mbahnisch says:

    I was very sad to hear this news this morning. I can only echo the sentiments in the second para of gandhi’s comment.

  5. Fatalities on US building sites: 1 in 1,000.
    Fatalities on British building sites: 1 in 4,000.
    Fatalities on Australian building sites: 1 in 16,000.
    The people responsible for saving the lives of 15 Australian building workers a year are the delegates and officials of the various building unions.
    Some of them are big men.
    Some have tatts and talk tough; they have to (talk tough that is, the tatts are optional :)) it’s a tough industry. But when the Liberals span their lies about thuggery and released a tape of a CFMEU official swearing as he made a safety inspection the response from Rudd was to expel the official from the ALP.
    So forgive me for my mixed emotions when Rudd made his tribute to Bernie on Saturday night. Part of me rejoiced that something of substance broke into that bland speech. But another part was filled with rage at the hypocrisy that lauds a fighter for his class because he is dying and therefore acceptable to the media while hundreds of other fighters in the same cause will continue to face persecution by the Cole Royal Commission.
    If this particular bit of “me-tooism” continues after the election and the building unions continue to be persecuted then building workers will die. That is thuggery.

  6. Nabakov says:

    Well said Robert.

    A killer (in every sense) retort to the anti union ads would have been flashing up shots of certain buildings and superimposing on them who
    the current outspoken anti-union tenants are and the number of serious injuries and deaths that that building cost.

    We do tend to take for granted those towering steel, glass and concrete edifices that so many of us infest to make a crust ourselves. A few generations ago, they’d have been seen as impossible pipe dreams. Yet now they’re erected in record time by blokes who won’t cut corners until you cut their working conditions. And even then they won’t. I’ve known a few major project construction workers in my time and they seem to take great pride in their work. “Eureka Tower? You shoulda been there for the topping off. A real beauty that one. We all wrote our names in the cement underneath the overlay on the top floor.”

    Reminds of me of an anecdote about some people watching a big construction crane at work on a skyscraper and someone mentioning the crane operator gets paid more than the Prime Minister. “Yeah so, do you really want the PM driving that crane?”

    A bit of bad language and standover tactics, whether its Dick Pratt or Norm Gallagher, is a penalty I’m quite happy to pay for living in a vibrant economy where my milk is well packaged and where my office doesn’t fall down. So far we seem in Australia to have got the balance right.

  7. FDB says:


  8. Helen says:

    #6 Robert Bollard – well said that man.
    Nabs also.

    It’s depressing how many people seem to think that our working conditions are just the result of the nice employers being good blokes. Sure, some of them are, but at the turn of the last century you wouldn’t want to work in a mine or a factory or on a building site.

  9. Ambigulous says:

    Bernie rose to the challenge of being the public face of the dying asbestos sufferers. Most of his demands were for others, and for the future. What a courageous, warm, intelligent man.

    Vale Bernie.

  10. nasking says:

    Bernie lived standing up, not on his knees. An inspiration to all Justice seekers.
    His memory & message is stamped on Australian society…& it is the better for it.

  11. nasking says:

    Excellent points Robert. You said articulately & w/ punch what needs to be said. Brave, determined Workers need brave, determined advocates & Guardians.

  12. Jane says:

    Bernie was indeed an inspiration to us all. He was a great Australian and a wonderful advocate for the rights of working people to have a safe working environment. Vale Bernie.
    It was reported in yesterday’s Advertiser that those scumbags at James Hardie are still trying to strip him of his compensation, post mortem.

Comments are closed.

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
%d bloggers like this: