Asbestos issues not a financial risk: Telstra

Asbestos issues not a financial risk: Telstra

Summary: Telstra CEO David Thodey has said that asbestos claims related to infrastructure overhaul as part of the NBN does not represent significant financial risk to the company at this stage.


As the Australian government convenes crisis talks with Telstra and a number of other stakeholders over concerns about dangerous asbestos material discovered in Telstra infrastructure that is being overhauled as part of the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout, the telco giant has moved to reassure the market that Telstra doesn't currently expect to face significant financial liability from asbestos claims.

Telstra CEO David Thodey said in a release to the Australian Stock Exchange that the company had been managing the risk of asbestos in its network for many years.

"Telstra has processes for managing claims of any type from employees and the public to ensure that such claims are handled sensitively and expeditiously. We take our responsibilities very seriously in looking after our employees and the community and our highest priority is their safety and peace of mind," he said.

"Should we form the view that there is a material financial risk to the company or any other material information that is required to be disclosed to the ASX under the Listing Rules, we will take immediate action to notify the market. We do not believe this to be the case at this time."

Thodey's comments came as Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy convened stakeholders including Telstra, NBN Co, unions and asbestos victim groups to Canberra this morning for crisis talks around the discovery of asbestos in a number of pits across the country being overhauled to prepare for NBN infrastructure last week.

Shorten told Radio National this morning that the issue of Telstra's liability would not be the first priority of the meeting, which would focus on where the asbestos is located.

"We've asked Telstra to inform us what they think the prevalence of asbestos in communication pits. We've asked Telstra to also talk about what their plan is to deal with asbestos in their pits."

Shorten said that Telstra had yet to inform the government how many of the over 2 million Telstra pits contained asbestos, nor their plan for how to treat it.

He said that residents have requested information about 20 pits in the Western Sydney suburb of Penrith suspected of having asbestos in them so far.

The minister said that ultimately because Telstra owned the infrastructure, it was their responsibility, but the government needed to ensure that there were "no cowboys" in the subcontractors doing the work for Telstra.

Shorten has also suggested that a national asbestos exposure register should be set up for the public to report when they suspect they have been exposed to the deadly fibre.

"People shouldn't have to self-censor their concerns if they think there is an exposure issue," he said.

"It's very dis-empowering for residents and employees if they think they've been exposed to asbestos and just don't know."

Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull told AM this morning that NBN Co can't shift all the responsibility to Telstra.

"It is, of course, Telstra's primary responsibility, that's true. But NBN Co is planning to use those ducts," he said.

"What the Government has to do now is make it absolutely rock solid, rock solid assurance, that any work done for, or on behalf or connected with the NBN project, is going to be done in accordance with the highest standards."

Shorten and Conroy are expected to hold a press conference at 3:30pm AEST to discuss the outcome of the crisis talks.

Topic: NBN


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • 4 years in and now calls for a plan

    Taxpayers will be funding a new regulator by the end of the day.

    Great project;-)
    Richard Flude
    • Of course, what else would we expect Telstra to say. Gotta keep their geriatric shareholders happy while their asbestos contamination clusfuск affects the share price they watch with eagle eyes everyday;-)

      You'd think after '4 years' and after signing off on an $11 billion deal with NBNco Telstra would have thought of all this and sorted it out but apparently not. Just what kind of chimpanzees do they have running the joint? Who cares. Just another reminder of why Telstra cannot be trusted with our communications infrastructure;-)
      Hubert Cumberdale
      • Apologies for the error in my comment. The "4 years" line should be "40 to 50 years". Thodey mentioned that Telstra have known about this issue for 40 to 50 years;-)
        Hubert Cumberdale
  • Indeed HC...

    "It is, of course, Telstra's primary responsibility, that's true..." Gee, even MT admits it.

    But remember when the Telstra deal was first signed and the (now FttN apologists) perpetual NBN whingers, whined about monies spent by Quigley to lease the pits and ducts, instead of purchasing them?

    Seems Quigley wasn't ready to purchase old dilapidated equipment and leased to ensure Telstra had to maintain. Wonder if MT will learn from Quigley, if elected, re: the copper?
    • Link please

      Lease vs purchase opinion
      Richard Flude
  • No financial Loss but only Human Life Loss

    No financial Loss but only Human Life Loss - Money Minded telstra
    • Understand

      The legal requirement for any listed company is to put shareholder interest and profit first
      Abel Adamski
      • Not true

        Many legal requirements above shareholder returns.
        Richard Flude