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Rudd's Eulogy for Bernie Banton

Fiona: Longtime Webdiarist Marilyn Shepherd posted the following to Webdiary yesterday afternoon. I felt it would be more appropriate as a piece in its own right, and Marilyn agreed. Not having Margo's memory of all things Webdiary, I don't know whether this is Marilyn's first piece; in any event, thank you Marilyn.

It would seem that Rudd is not a dud, that those times he infuriated the media toadies he was off visiting homeless shelters, Bernie Banton and Matt Price. This was published in the Australian on 5 December. I suspect we can all agree with the sentiments.



The following is a transcript of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's eulogy of Bernie Banton, given at his funeral in Sydney:

TODAY the nation gathers together to honour a great Australian life, a great Australian hero, a hero in an age when we’ve all become so cynical we didn’t believe there would be heroes anymore.


Bernie Banton is an Australian hero.

An extraordinary bloke.

He would describe himself as an ordinary bloke. An ordinary bloke with an extraordinary heart who led an extraordinary life.

He had a heart as big as Pharlap and a heart tempered by an iron will, a determination, an iron determination never to wallow in self pity, never just to emote and to cause tears to come to our eyes but an iron determination to act.

An iron determination to bring justice to working people who otherwise would have none.

And above all, an iron determination to prevail.

Bernie’s fight was for those who suffered from asbestos-related diseases.

For the workers covered in dust.

For their wives and their mums who loyally, daily washed their dust covered clothes and the families who lost loved ones and lost their livelihoods as a result.

But Bernie’s fight became something bigger and broader again and that is where Bernie reached out and touched the Australian soul, reminding us all of what it is to be Australian.

Reminding us all of the need to look out for one another.

Reminding us all that in this great country, Australia, we demand a fair go for all, not just for some.

In short, Bernie became the symbol, the living symbol, the continuing symbol of basic human decency.

When I called around to see Bernie and Karen and Dean at their West Pennant Hills home a month or so ago, Bernie and I yakked and yakked and yakked and yakked for nearly an hour.

I doubt that I helped Bernie very much at all.

But what I know is that Bernie helped me a lot, lifting my eyes beyond the ruck and maul of an election campaign to remind me of what it was all about - the purpose of our great enterprise to build a decent future for all working families.

I left with a spring in my step and I’ll always remember that discussion that day.

Bernie asked only one thing of me before I left him that day and that was this: to pay a public tribute to the great Australian trade union movement.

To the unions who stood by him through thick and thin when others did not.

To the union leaders who stood by him through thick and then when others did not.

And as Bernie said to me, “Kevin, were it not for the unions, I could never have prevailed in my fight for justice.”

So, today, on Bernie’s behalf, I salute the role of these unions in bringing justice to working people.

And now we come to say goodbye to Bernie.

I believe Bernie Banton will be honoured in the future more than prime ministers, more than premiers, more than politicians, more than captains of industry.

And so he should.

Because Bernie was an ordinary bloke who decided to become something extraordinary and through that became an extraordinary hero in our age, an age where we feared we would no longer have heroes anymore.

We will sit down with Bernie’s family soon to work out how best to honour his memory into the future.

For Karen and Bernie’s children, your grief is greater today than anyone’s because the truth is, Bernie died too young, just too young.

Bernie, I’ll miss you, mate.

Bernie, the nation will miss you, mate.

And our great Australian family is poorer for your passing, the passing of this extraordinary Australian hero.


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Unfair Dismissal Laws

A bit off topic, but this is the most recent IR related thread I can find on Webdiary.  So with apologies to Mr Banton for stealing his thunder...

Have a read of this piece from the New York Times titled "How to Lose Your Job on Your Own Time".  It is an account of how some US  employers are using the Internet to monitor the outside work life of their employees then sacking them under US "at will" dismissal laws.  Getting photographed with a drink is considered by some employers as "unprofessional" conduct that merits dismissal.  Is this what we want in Australia with a contraction of appeal channels for unfair dismissal?



You can't walk through a city mall without cameras on you, can't even hope to keep your personal information private and blood tests are becoming more frequent.

What's the bet this stuff will follow all the other rubbish they dream up in that home of the free, America, to be incorporated by spineles politicians at the behest of exploitative employers here, so that it becomes the norm also?


Bernie Banton was ironically, the final nail in the coffin of a government of sinister underlying ideological values, that had proved the final nail in his.

Andrew Bolt, on Insiders in the wake of the election, expressed a fervent hope that the Liberals would belatedly seek in adversity a rediscovery of a moral viewpoint. The small "l" liberal wing of the liberal party grasped the meaning of such a task as set almost straightwaway, but the dominant hard-right clung ferociously to the spoils of defeat, even at the cost of dragging the more in touch small "l" faction who could have offered it a way out of its bind, so that the triumph of Minchin, Abbott and the other troglodytes became the hobbling the Liberal's own chances of finally walking away from the worst aspects of the Dickensian nineteenth century and providing a viable and electable opposition needed by the country to keep Rudd Labor on its toes. But this a formation that at its Thatcherite worst denies even the possibility of a Civil Society, against the sterile dogma of Selfish Individualism, as decribed by commentator Terry Eagleton. So, in a real way it is apt that it should be consigned by its own hand to a Hobbessian wilderness of its own yearning and creation.

For how apt for Bernie, that his tenacity should reward him enough to be a living and dying refutation of what the Coalition came to stand for and a conscious means to its unmourned downfall.

What goes round, comes round - and this happened with a clarion vengeance for the Bernie Banton who spent his final months slowly suffocating to death. He survived for people like my Mum, who died earlier in the year of cigarette-induced lung cancer (only a moderate smoker, reassured by those criminals for all those years since girlhood that that was "ok" too, by the profit-takers and liars. She was denied her dying wish to see Howard pitched out in an election only months away after nearly twelve years of patience.

For in the end, only through the utter arrogance and total out of touch-ness of crassly insensitive politicians like Tony Abbott was Bernie handed a belated opportunity, fortuitously right on election time, to witness and what's more participate in the come-uppance of those who had in turn brought many innocent people down through callous indifference, selfishness and greed.

As the nation settled back on election eve, even if it had forgotten No Choices, Haneef, Refugees, Welfare-to Work, or the deplorable Aboriginal pogrom in the NT, to name but a few of many off-colour events that the public had successfully been encouraged to evade by the media and press propagandists, all the spin-doctoring under the sun couldn't save the Tory humpty-dumpty from the result of the uncomfortable knowledge of Banton's fate that roused even an electorate as passive as the Australian one.

For in the Bernie Banton example we saw naked and unadorned the truth; the end-game of Howardism and the consequences of having trust in it, and finally faced up to what awaited us, if we didn't finally get off our arses and finally act decisively, at the polling booths the following day.

Never Truer Words!

"I believe Bernie Banton will be honoured in the future more than prime ministers, more than premiers, more than politicians, more than captains of industry," said our Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.

His words are a measure of the depth of the man as well as a deserved tribute to Bernie.

If only Rudd's generosity of spirit and humility and Bernie's caring and compassion were catching and could spread like wildfire thoughout the Webdiary community and far beyond, into every corner of our land and into every heart.

If only!

P.S. Thanks for the post, Marilyn!

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