Bernie Banton – the anti-asbestos campaigner whose courage and resolve justifiably created a major PR disaster for James Hardie Industries – died peacefully in his sleep this morning at around 1am (AEDT). Work colleague John Robertson said Mr Banton was “…a bloke that was determined to make sure that everybody – not just himself – got justice from James Hardie.”
Mr Banton led the fight to force building products giant James Hardie to establish a $4 billion fund to compensate thousands of asbestos victims. Mr Banton was the public face of the six-year fight for the fund to compensate victims of asbestos-related diseases caused by products made by former James Hardie subsidiaries. Bernie worked from 1968 to 1974, at what proved to be one of James Hardie’s worst asbestos-affected plants, at Camellia in Sydney’s western suburbs.
James Hardie Industries has expressed its condolences to Banton’s family: “The company acknowledges the significant contribution Mr Banton made to raising the awareness of asbestos-related diseases in Australia, and his role in the eventual implementation of the final funding agreement to compensate Australians with asbestos-related personal injury claims,” the company said in a statement.