New law to help asbestos sufferers in Victoria, Australia

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

New legislation in Victoria, Australia will provide for greater compensation for victims suffering from effects of exposure to asbestos. The legislation is called "Bernie Banton law", after the late campaigner for asbestos-related issues. The law will remove a restriction which prevented asbestos victims from making another claim after being diagnosed with a terminal illness. Banton contracted mesothelioma after working for the Netherlands-based company James Hardie, and died in 2007.

Prior to the Banton law victims of asbestos exposure could seek compensation for asbestosis, a disease resulting from exposure which causes lung scarring, but were unable to seek compensation if they were later diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a cancer which develops in the sac surrounding the lungs and chest cavity, abdominal cavity, or the sac surrounding the heart. Patients with malignant mesothelioma generally do not have positive outcomes, and once diagnosed have six months to a year to live. Asbestos usage has been banned in Victoria, Australia since 2003.

Cquote1.svg Allowing an exception to the normal rule that court-awarded compensation is final will allow compensation for the true effects of asbestos exposure. Cquote2.svg

John Brumby

Victorian Premier John Brumby welcomed the legislation, saying: "Victorian workers deserve fair compensation for illnesses and injuries they have received just by doing their job." Brumby acknowledged that Victoria had lagged behind other states in its asbestos compensation practices. "Allowing an exception to the normal rule that court-awarded compensation is final will allow compensation for the true effects of asbestos exposure," explained Brumby.

Bernie Banton's widow, Karen Banton, stood alongside John Brumby as the legislation was announced, and spoke out in favor of the law. "The uncertainty that these Victorian families have suffered up until this point, the dilemma of whether I claim and whether I wait ... it would be a terrible choice to have to make," she said. She said her late husband would have been honored by the legislation's passage, and was appreciative that his name was associated with the cause of justice in the country. "I'm sure Bernie's looking down from heaven, feeling very honoured and humbled that his name continues to be associated with the fight to correct injustice," she said.

Cquote1.svg There's a lot of asbestos around, this is a live issue for the community and we strongly welcome this initiative. Cquote2.svg

—Steve Dargavel

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and the Victorian Trades Hall Council supported the legislation's passage, as did Martin Kingham of the Asbestos Diseases Society of Victoria. Kingham said that in the past asbestos sufferers were wary about whether or not to make a claim: "They've had to gamble on whether to make a claim now and to cut off any compensation for more serious fatal illness or to, basically, sit it out and wait and see what happens to them and potentially not getting compensated for their original asbestosis."

"There's a lot of asbestos around, this is a live issue for the community and we strongly welcome this initiative," said Australian Manufacturing Workers Union Victorian secretary Steve Dargavel. Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary Brian Boyd called the legislation "a good and decent thing" but said more action was needed to better protect asbestos victims' families. The additional claims are expected to help approximately 50 people each year. The legislation will be introduced in the State Parliament next year.


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Sources

Wikipedia Learn more about James Hardie and Mesothelioma on Wikipedia.
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