A long-listed finalist for the 2009 Walkley non-fiction book of the year
Killer Company exposes the shocking facts of the James Hardie Industries asbestos scandal.
The real James Hardy, the founder of the company, had almost no connection to the Australian asbestos mining, manufacturing and supply company.
James Hardie Industries grew to prominence under the Reid family. Its use of harmful asbestos fibre lead to the deaths of thousands of workers and customers, who were never informed of the dangers.
Killer Company reveals how James Hardie Industries manoeuvred around the institutions designed to protect citizens from serious hazards to their health. The book opens with the true account of former James Hardie employee, Bernie Banton, described as a ‘true Australian hero’.
Author Matt Peacock spoke at length with Banton, who gave interviews from his hospital bed, where he was being treated for asbestos-induced fibrosis. This fibrosis can lie dormant for many years. When it presents itself, a rapidly fatal tumour spreads over the pleural covering (the thin protective lining) of the lung.
Bernie Banton fought James Hardie Industries head on. He drew intense public interest to the scandal, and was persistent in battling the company in court.
Peacock includes excerpts from documents proving that “the highest echelons in James Hardie knew of mesothelioma and the dangers of asbestos dust two years before Banton began to work for the company”.
Killer Company shows how a thoroughly committed group of unionists, lawyers and activists finally unveiled the shocking cover up for the public, and the justice system, to see.
The book is based on newly discovered documents, and extensive interviews with over one hundred former James Hardie employees and other key figures.
Peacock’s research includes evidence that asbestos is still in some public areas today. Hessian sacks that once contained asbestos were placed under some wooden flooring in houses. Some driveways are made of recycled asbestos. At the Baryulgil Aboriginal community, children who played in asbestos tailing, which lined the roads, are now developing rare cancers.
Killer Company by Matt Peacock, published by ABC Books, RRP $35
Review by Angela Welsh, a student at Macquarie University and intern with the Walkley Foundation.