Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 02 Hansard (Wednesday, 5 March 2008) . . Page.. 564 ..
Articulate, passionate and with an impressive grasp of the nuances of evidence, Bernie Banton achieved national prominence as the face of the working people battling a sophisticated international company. Our sympathy is with his wife, Karen, five children and 11 grandchildren. His legacy will live on and he will always be remembered. I commend the motion to the Assembly.
MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (5.48): In supporting the motion, I foreshadow that I will move what I think is a pretty fair enhancement of it. I agree with what Ms MacDonald said in relation to the late Bernie Banton. He was certainly inspirational. He tragically contracted the disease when he was in his 20s; it is a killer disease.
Karin MacDonald mentions a number of other people, including Elizabeth Thurbon, whose husband suffered from the disease. I know the Thurbons very well. Elizabeth’s brother-in-law Kim and I played rugby. Her father-in-law used to drive us all round in the painters’ kombi van when we were about 14 or 15. Elizabeth Thurbon was one of the ones who saw me.
The Assembly has done a lot in terms of asbestos and asbestos related diseases—not just in 2004; we go right back. Mr Speaker, you and I would be the only ones who would remember this: in the first Assembly, when there were some serious concerns about asbestos in roofs in terms of insulation, I think it was your government—the first Assembly government back in 1989—that started a program which had the support of the Assembly in relation to taking asbestos out of roofs. That was something which took a number of years to do, but it was done effectively. The logical extension of that—
MR SPEAKER: And $90 million, wasn’t it?
MR STEFANIAK: It was a lot of money. We might have got something out of the federal government. Anyway, that was quite historic. It started a pretty proud tradition in this Assembly in terms of an awareness of what asbestos can do to you.
That continues to this day. Only a few months ago, a friend of mine rang up. That was Bernadette O’Shaughnessy, who was a lieutenant at OCTU when I was on the staff at 2 Training Group. There was a Joe Kipper who was an ex-regular army warrant officer who was on staff there. She was concerned that other people who served at the time might have contracted asbestos as a result of the old World War II huts we worked in. I do not think I have, but poor old Joe died as a result of asbestosis, and it could well have been from that time at Bardia Barracks at Ingleburn.
It is a very nasty disease—a disease that people are still coming to appreciate. That is where Bernie Banton was so important. He was the front man who brought to the attention of the Australian public just how dangerous asbestos actually is. I do not think that people appreciated that until he really got going. He was an absolute inspiration to many people. Many people got on the bandwagon as a result, and that had a great effect in the ACT. He inspired people like Elizabeth Thurbon and her family, who had suffered, to get involved.