Asbestos victims lose compensation in NSW

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The NSW Government has ruled that asbestos victims’ families will get nothing if the sufferer dies before their compensation case is concluded in court. Peter Wicks reports.
Bernie Banton, Greg Smith and Tony Abbott: only one of them cared about asbestos victims.

Bernie Banton spent his last few agonizing breaths fighting for their rights, this week the NSW Coalition Government kicked them and their families in the guts. Damn hard too.

They are the workers suffering and dying from the effects of asbestos, which leads to some particularly nasty and painful conditions.

Those who are unlucky enough to have this condition have a long, undignified, and agonizing death to look forward to. Their families will have to deal with watching their loved ones suffer excruciating pain with each breath, and know that there is nothing that can be done for them. This truly is a disease you wouldn’t wish upon your worst enemy — it is beyond horrific.

The company who gave us this deadly product was James Hardie, and the Federal Government at the time of the legal battles for compensation was the Howard Government.

As I mentioned, Bernie Banton was the man James Hardie hadn’t counted on. Bernie spent what were his final years fighting those he saw as the bastards who refused to help those suffering. Those bastards were the Directors of James Hardie, and Tony Abbott, who was then Health Minister. Tony Abbott did not want sufferers to have access to medication that was subsidised, and James Hardie didn’t want to be held liable for the serious problems that they had caused. In fact, Tony Abbott even had the gall to insult Banton in his final days [note below video]:

Nevertheless, in a true David and Goliath battle, Bernie won on both counts, gaining compensation guarantees and access to subsidised medication.

Then, like a war criminal fleeing for Switzerland, James Hardie moved its headquarters overseas in a bid to avoid the compensation payments, under the Coalitions watch.

In NSW, victims of this awful condition have received yet another awful blow, at the hands of a heartless Government.

Some of you may remember me writing about NSW Attorney-General General Greg Smith — well, it seems Greg’s priorities are a little more than back the front.

Unlike the state governments in Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria, Greg Smith has decided that these poor asbestos victims and their families should receive no compensation at all if the sufferer dies before the compensation case is finalised in court.

This is an unprecedented heartless act of total bastardry.

This virtually forces the victims to spend their final months not with their loved ones, but in court fighting for what no reasonable person would say they don’t deserve. Mr Smith is also encouraging the legal team opposing compensation payments to drag the proceedings out and delay an outcome as long as possible, as they will be financially rewarded if the victim dies before his claim is finalised.

The compensation claims the Government would be liable for are estimated at $23 million over 40 years. Just over half a million a year — not much at all, really.

More than this has probably been spent in the last year on marketing and spin about the North West Rail Link, which hasn’t even been started yet.

Apparently, according to Greg Smith, to pay this compensation would leave the NSW Government open to legal damages from James Hardie that could cost the NSW Government anywhere between $23 million and $140 million over 40 years.

So, at the absolute worst, the Government would be faced with a cost of $3.5Million in a year. This is based on the assumption that James Hardie would not only take on the NSW Government legally — but would win.

It assumes that a company like James Hardie would be seeking to gain more adverse publicity by short-changing their victims. It also assumes that a judge would find in the favour of a company that has caused the deaths of thousands over a Government trying to compensate victim’s families.

According to Greg Smith, this is not a battle worth fighting. What a gutless display of apathy. Barry O’Farrell should show some guts and sack Mr Smith now, as he should have done last fortnight after the paedophile fiasco.

It is interesting to note that Greg Smith won’t fight for asbestos victims and their families, but is happy to stand up for his mate the paedophile.

If the Liberal Party had any decency left in them they would sack him, and I hope the local branches have the common sense to preselect someone else next time around.

This is nothing short of a disgrace.

(This story was originally published on WIXXYLEAKS and has been republished with permission. Read more about asbestos in IA here.)
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