Australia has the highest rate of asbestos-related deaths on the planet. One of the major contributors to those deaths is the James Hardie Company, once one of the most respected manufacturers in the country, until it was discovered that they had been covering up their knowledge of the hazards of asbestos, allowing more and more workers to get sick as time passed. Now, the Australian Broadcast Company wants to tell that story and has made a two-part movie about the Hardie debacle, airing next week on Australian television and entitled “The Devil’s Dust.”
The movie, notes an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, is one that’s been much anticipated by those thousands of families that have been affected by toxic asbestos, used freely in Australia until the 1990s. Described as a tale of “bravery and corporate chicanery”, it’s also “a story begging to be told,” says director Jessica Hobbs.
The movie will feature three main characters: Matt Peacock, the journalist who was integral in exposing the cover-up and who later wrote a book entitled “Killer Company”; Bernie Banton, a victim of mesothelioma and Australia’s very public face in the fight against Hardie and others who covered up the dangers of asbestos; and Adam Bourke, a fictional character who is employed as the PR person for Hardie, who must come to grips with the fact that his employer is responsible for the death of many Australians.
Hobbs says making the movie was challenging. ”We had a huge obligation to be responsible,” she says. ”You suddenly had to be a scientist, to make sure we understood the medical side; a corporate lawyer, to get our heads around all the corporate manoeuvring that went on; and also a bit of an investigative journalist, cross-checking the facts to make sure that all the stories were corroborated.”