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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Wednesday, 5 December 2007
Asbestos and the struggle for redemption of spin merchant ex premier Bob Carr?
Mood:  incredulous
Topic: health

Bernie Banton — the public face in the successful battle on behalf of asbestos victims against James Hardie —  with his wife, Karen, and son, Dean, after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma last August.

Picture: Working class hero, Bernie Banton who died recently after a winning battle over many years against corporate criminal James Hardy, flanked by wife Karen and son. What lessons will be learned in terms of  political and corporate governance as a result of the heroic efforts of Mr Banton and others?

Later today we will visit Addison Rd Centre with at least 5, and probably more, buildings with corrugated asbestos roofing.

The community land at 142 Addison Rd Marrickville has been through the hands of the Dept of Defence as a recruitment base in WW2, and Vietnam War, Immigration centre in the 70ies, and diverse cultural centre for the last 30 years.

Only this year 2007 have these signs been going up:



The president of the ARC Board Andrews said at the recent Annual General Meeting that she didn't "want to be alarmist" but they were taking action as required by the legislation.

Such action has been reinforced by the enormous struggle and effort of one Bernie Banton (SMH Slideshow: Bernie Banton in his own words, Video: Tributes flow for Bernie Banton (7.30 Report) ) and his supporters. In our activist career we can truly say we have not seen such a deserving winner of a State Funeral as Banton at Homebush Bay today. The details of the event are here 10.30am. We thought of him many days in our part time gardening work at the ARC this last 4 years finding scraps of asbestos in the landscape a bit too often than is really comfortable.

(We recall the day in 2007 a tenant there at Sidetrack Theatre encouraged us to clean out his hopelessly jammed gutters below one such corrugated rooftop. No thanks.)

We note the big wrap given recently to the ABC's Matt Peacock for urging the activist groups to push Bernie Banton forward as the public face of the campaign against James Hardy.

We noticed in the lead up to this State Funeral that Bob Carr - who we say was forceably retired after his 10 year reign as premier - has an increasing role in the memorial 'Bernie Banton research facility' into asbestos diseases at Concord Hospital.

We feel a jarring disjunction given Carr as Premier, as we understand it, or at least his regime well knew of the legal proceedings that permited cunning asbestos purveyor James Hardie to restructure via an order of the NSW Supreme Court in 2001. The actual court decision is here. We say a regime that well knew but failed to act given it's legendary lack of rigour and triumph of style over substance that the Carr regime became synonmymous with. Sure enough the federal regulator ASIC and Judge Santow accepted the woeful assurances of James Hardy they would fully finance projected compensation claims and the NSW Govt dropped the ball too.


We note this highly suggestive quote by Andrew Ferguson a well known union leader in the NSW construction sector made in November 2004 about the findings of the Jackson Inquiry earlier that year (made in an international conference in Japan) apparently referring to the 1995-2001 period that prefaced the 2001 creation of the so called Medical Research and Compensation Fund (part of the James Hardy asset offshoring strategy):

 "Peter Macdonald (CEO), Greg Baxter (VP Corporate Affairs), and Steve Ashe (VP Public Affairs) implemented a ‘communications strategy’, in relation to the creation of the MRCF, in which the fears of key stakeholders, including the NSW Government, were allayed by misleading statements." [bold added] in  

James Hardie – US Multinational versus Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union of Australia (CFMEU), Australian Trade Union Movement, asbestos victims and Trades Union International of Workers in the Building, Wood, Building Materials and Allied Industry (UITBB) Speech delivered by Andrew Ferguson, NSW State Secretary Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union Global Asbestos Conference Tokyo, Japan November 2004 Special thanks to Australia Legal Firms Slater & Gordon and Taylor & Scott for background material for this presentation. In PDF version, and HTML version here.

Ex federal treasurer Peter Costello seemed to be wise to this reality as we recall him in federal parliament over the official radio broadcasts in recent years targetting the Carr Govt failure to keep a check on James Hardy legal skulduggery. Costello didn't appreciate being drawn into the whole affair in relation to taxation and other corporate regulation. On the other hand Costello and the federal agency ASIC have alot to answer for too for the 2001 debacle in the NSW Supreme Court.

 Picture: Ex premier of NSW Bob Carr now chairman of the Concord Hospital Asbestos research facility opened in 2007. Within weeks of retiring in 2005 Carr joined big capital in the form of Macquarie Bank.

So though the NSW Govt were not a formal party to the Supreme Court proceedings of 2001 before Santow J it defies belief they were not aware of the factual matrix of the slow motion legal disaster unfolding, only rectified in 2007.

By 2004 the NSW Govt under Carr were backpedalling under the ferocious backlash of the assembled unions and civil society broadly based. Whether left or right, green or brown, rich or poor, young or old, we have all been exposed and some of us will die of the toxic stuff. Bernie Banton knew this and told us straight.

Bob Debus as then Attorney General of NSW also knew it and pushed hard for reform of defamation laws which in effect allowed the civil society groups to defame the James Hardie Corporation without fear of SLAPP suits. The national and other state govts fell into line with the law reform: It was James Hardy v Australia. This law reform is another ongoing legacy of Bernie Banton's fight and of those who most actively supported him.

We expect to hear Bob Carr on the mainstream media today. He may or may not mention his own Jackson Inquiry made necessary to sort out the mess of the Supreme Court wave through of the JH offshore corporate restructure farce: The corporate dance intended to shift their assets out of reach of what became a $4 Billion compensation fund for systemic industrial manslaughter. The legal trickey of Allens, the no.1 corporate legal sharks in Sydney, on behalf of their client James Hardy in 2001  had failed.


Images of the State Funeral today following the speech by widow Karen Banton:



We loved you here Bernie Banton, no fear of that.

Posted by editor at 6:48 AM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 5 December 2007 8:14 PM EADT

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