More Telstra asbestos incidents discovered

More Telstra asbestos incidents discovered

Summary: Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has said that Telstra has identified four states where there has been asbestos incidents where its infrastructure being remediated for the NBN.


Telstra has stopped remediation work for the National Broadband Network (NBN) amid concern about asbestos discovered at sites in Penrith and Ballarat, but Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has revealed that several sites across the country are also being investigated for the deadly material.

Telstra announced today that it suspended all remediation work and is deploying 200 specialists to NBN sites around the country amid fears that subcontractors may have been exposed to asbestos in legacy Telstra infrastructure being made ready for the NBN.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said in Budget estimates hearings on Thursday that the government was treating the matter very seriously, and he had been in constant discussion with Telstra CEO David Thodey over the past few days. The minister indicated that he was aware of other asbestos incidents outside of those already made public.

"I'm aware of an incident in Perth, in which Comcare was called in around a pit in Western Australia which had some very strange findings," he said.

"[And] Senator [Nick] Xenophon has just mentioned a South Australian incident. I'd have to check if there are any others that come to mind."

Tasmania was also identified as having an issue with asbestos, but Conroy said it wasn't clear if actual asbestos was involved in that case.

"There's been claims of a lack of training in Tasmania. I'm not sure that involves any actual asbestos," he said.

Conroy said that most of the incidents involved subcontractors of Telstra, and not NBN Co, but he said that one of the complex issues was that the subcontractors in some areas are doing remediation work for Telstra at the same time as they are constructing the NBN for NBN Co.

"Part of the confusion in Tasmania is that the company that is our subcontractor to rollout the NBN is also the subcontractor Telstra is using to remediate the pits," he said.

"The workforce is fluid between the two."

The minister indicated that further information would be provided when NBN Co executives front the hearing later tonight.

The Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) has called for Telstra to create a fund for workers affected by asbestos, while Telstra has set up a hotline for residents concerned about remediation work in their area.

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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  • It is more than just that

    It is widespread, even the current Telstra Management and executives have no idea.

    The reason why is in the comment on the unOz article.

    " Calm Reflection of Norman Park, Qld Posted at 4:09 PM Today

    In the 1980s Telstra's predecessor Telecom Australia was a leader in managing asbestos and asbestos related issues and the two key unions involved made sure they did. Somewhere over the years that insight and expertise has been lost and not just in Telstra but in many large organisations like state government works departments. The easy hits in the mass downsizing of the large utilities companies are small, specialist groups like the internal asbestos lead house team. And at the same time the wide demise of middle managers and senior field supervisors who held this sort of corporate knowledge has exacerbated the loss. The replacement managers only come in for two or three years and being driven by financial and service delivery targets never have this sort of issue as even a passing point of interest. This is a problem of modern corporate staffing arrangements. It owes nothing to Senator Conroy nor can it be compared to pink batts. The NBN company has always lacked gravitas and workforce capability and Telstra as the owner of the pits involved has lost it, in spades."

    Not only the asbestos, but the state and guage of the copper and it's suitability to FTTN, a complete unknown to Telstra mangement.

    Some clues
    Abel Adamski
  • Oh dear. As if the Telstra brand name wasn't tarnished enough now they have to deal with these asbestos problems. Imagine how many peoples health could be compromised because of Telstra's dodgy ways... and just think in a Tumball FttN patchwork scenario it would combine the best of both worlds, slow speeds with bonus asbestos;-)
    Hubert Cumberdale
  • And the ignorant Goebellian tirade rolls on

    Even though it was never the NBN's issue, rather Telstra's
    Abel Adamski
    • Abel must you start with the Australian links too? I know you mean well but surely you must realise there may be impressionable children reading;-)
      Hubert Cumberdale
      • My profuse apologies

        True I did not consider the kiddies' I should have considering their regular appearance
        Abel Adamski
    • Missed the 1/3rd of home built with it

      What do you think the P in FTTP means?
      Richard Flude
      • I see. Indeed a P in FttP is important... So you believe when someone orders fibre on demand in a FttN scenario peoples heath is not at risk? Coalition clowns have it all figured out, let's trust them;-)
        Hubert Cumberdale
        • You believe it's the same size?

          Not just Telstra, affect thousands of homes. Still nothing...
          Richard Flude
          • "Not just Telstra"

            Yes. Just Telstra. The ducts belong to Telstra. Who else owns them;-)

            "affect thousands of homes"

            Indeed. Could be thousands and Telstra need to take responsibility for their stuff ups regardless of how many it is with a FttN or FttP build. My comment still stands;-)
            Hubert Cumberdale
          • Only Telstra used asbestos?

            Sorry axknowledging that would require reading broadly.

            The scale of the issue:
            "These materials were cheap, durable and were used extensively in the building industry. After World War II until 1954, in New South Wales alone, 70,000 houses were built using asbestos cement (52% of all houses built). [2] Up till the 1960s, 25% of all new housing was clad in asbestos cement in Australia. [3] In Victoria, it is estimated that 98% of homes constructed before 1976 contained asbestos products (most likely asbestos sheeting) and that 20% of all domestic roofs of that period contained asbestos. [4]
            Asbestos has not been used in domestic building materials since the 1980s but it was not until 31 December, 2003 that asbestos and all products containing asbestos were banned throughout Australia. It is illegal to import, store, supply, sell, install, use or re-use these materials. The ban does not apply to asbestos installed prior to this date (e.g. asbestos in houses)."
            Richard Flude
          • Yes

            Please don't go off on some wild tangent to again avoid the topic and try to make cheap points with other posters about asbestos generically Richard.

            I assure you, no one denies asbestos was used in many areas including vehicle brakes I believe, in times gone past.

            What we (as in everyone else here, including HC) are referring to, per the topic (as is protocol) of the article, are the pits and ducts, which are leased by NBNCo and are owned by Telstra, not someones roof.

            But as you have set the ground rules, yes asbestos has tragically seriously affected many Aussies and I believe companies such as James Hardie were rightly forced to set up compensation funds of many $b's for victims.

            Interesting to remember too... our former health Minister (what was his name Abbott) refusing to meet with asbestos victim and campaigner Bernie Banton, who simply wanted to present Mr Abbott with a petition to have the drug needed to help fight asbestosis included on the PBS, but Mr Abbott refused to attend, calling it a stunt and saying Mr Banton wasn't pure of heart.

            Quite a stunt indeed, considering about 1 month later Mr Banton tragically passed away.
          • Sorry toddler; you don't define what's discussed

            Asbestos in houses where fibre will be installed is a massive issue; not just Telstra pits. In fact a far bigger issue; not done properly likely to have far greater impacts (on contractors and residents).

            You want to point to Telstra; protect NBNCo from yet another failure. That's fine; but not all of us want to join you.

            Blanton would have survived had he meet with Abbott? Dumbest comment yet (given the rest quite an achievement). Again you confuse exposing NBNCo as some flag waving for the Liberals; small minds I guess.
            Richard Flude
          • Toddler, dumbest, small mind...?

            Seems only one of us (me) has learned from having our comments deleted for rudeness, Richard :/

            AGAIN on one "off topic" aspect, I agree yes... asbestos generally is a big issue (refer AGAIN to my comment).

            But yet AGAIN let me remind you, everyone here now at ZD (except you) are talking about the topic of "asbestos problems exclusively relating to Telstra's pits and ducts", not asbestos generally. After having this explained more than once, which part of this is still beyond your comprehension, Richard?

            BTW - if my Mr Banton (not Blanton, sigh) comment was the dumbest ever, I only had your crown for for a day, until your typical reply came along.
          • Addendum...

            Typical "heartless" comment.

            Like in relation to another article here at ZD, it seems even tragic deaths aren't sacred to those on an agenda.... absolutely disgraceful :(
          • Article defines what's discussed

            Usually. So, yes, bringing up the general asbestos problem with housing and its tragic consequences is technically irrelevant to the topics discussed.

            Calling people toddlers (Richard) and implying that some of the more mature people that come here are kids (Hubert, Abel) is also not relevant and is more in line with the comments used by the politicians in parliament.

            On the topic of housing asbestos problem though (since we have managed to meander our way there), you will notice that most of the houses with asbestos have one thing in common. They are old. I believe that one of the charters that the Liberal NBN guarantees is the replacement or repair of inadequate copper. Old housing means old copper. Old copper usually means inadequate. So even a FttN will run into housing asbestos problems too.
          • Thank you Darren...

            I have largely been avoiding (touched upon generic asbestos) "off topic deflection..." as I believe our friend (ahem) simply doesn't understand the protocols of commenting :/

            But since you have mentioned it (and even as I inferred to Richard) asbestos issues generally are a worry.

            However, I'm sure the general public are aware of possible asbestos in their homes (roof, walls etc), but not so with pits and ducts, hence the topic and also making people aware.

            Also the typical desperate tactic to try isolate and blame the NBN for everything from the ideological/greed driven, is ridiculous beyond compare.

            Do they really expect anyone to believe that home owners and workers are at more risk with the NBN than they would be with a Tradie (Plumber, Electrician, Roofer, Painter or especially a Builder) doing work on, with or through the same asbestos.
          • "What we (as in everyone else here, including HC) are referring to, per the topic (as is protocol) of the article, are the pits and ducts, which are leased by NBNCo and are owned by Telstra, not someones roof."

            Nailed it;-)
            Hubert Cumberdale
  • Desperately trying to protect their Foxtel Partners
    Abel Adamski