David Banks - Victim Lauded as 'Brilliant Scientist'

May 9, 2005
John Kerin
The Australian

Top scientist David Banks, who died in the aircraft crash on the weekend, worked tirelessly to keep pests and diseases out of Australia.

The 55-year-old amateur beekeeper and rower was the principal scientist with quarantine authority Biosecurity Australia and had worked on many of the country's major pest and disease threats.

He was among 15 people killed in the accident in far north Queensland after he was about to return home to Canberra. The scientist was carrying out a survey for the Northern Australia quarantine strategy.

His family last night was too upset to comment on his death but a colleague and communications manager at Biosecurity Australia, John Wilson, said his loss was "a shock to everyone".

"Australia has lost a brilliant scientist and a quarantine advocate," Mr Wilson told The Australian. "Our thoughts are with his wife and family. "This is just a devastating loss for Australia."

Among Dr Banks's achievements was the invention of a mosquito trap that provides an early warning if pests or diseases are making their way into the country.

A spokesman for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry said last night Dr Banks had been in north Queensland trapping insects and conducting blood tests on livestock.

"He had finished his survey and was on the flight coming back to Cairns to catch a connecting flight to Canberra," he said last night.

"He was a very highly regarded and senior veterinarian who has not only helped keep pests and diseases out of Australia but has also assisted many countries in the Pacific and Asian regions, including PNG and Indonesia, with their own problems," he said.

He said Dr Banks had lived in Canberra for at least the past 10 years.

Much of Dr Banks's work involved trying to keep diseases which affect cattle, pigs and fruit orchards out of Australia. These included diseases affecting bananas and citrus, classical swine fever and nipah virus affecting animals, and Japanese encephalitis, which affects humans.

The chair of parliament's Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee, Liberal MP Bill Heffernan, said last night Mr Banks was "a delight to work with".

"He's appeared before our committee many times ... he's made a fantastic contribution to protecting livestock and plants in Australia," he said.

"On behalf of the committee our condolences go out to his wife and family," he said.

Apart from his work directly keeping out diseases, Dr Banks was also involved in putting together restrictions on the importation of zoo animals and assessing their risk to Australia's native animals.


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