Queensland govt highlights more Telstra asbestos issues

Queensland govt highlights more Telstra asbestos issues

Summary: As the Federal Government gets Telstra to agree to full responsibility to deal with asbestos material in pits and ducts, the Queensland government has claimed to uncover three asbestos-related safety breaches.

TOPICS: NBN, Telcos, Telstra

Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie has claimed that three Telstra infrastructure sites in Queensland being remediated for the National Broadband Network (NBN) were found to have "serious breaches" of safety around asbestos handling.

The minister said that inspectors for Workplace Health and Safety Queensland had uncovered three cases over the past three months where contractors in Banyo, Carseldine and Mackay were not following the correct procedure around the handling of the deadly asbestos fibre.

"At Carseldine, high pressure water was used to clean a telecommunications pit containing asbestos. Debris was observed on the faces and clothes of two workers," he said, in a statement.

"In the other instances, asbestos contaminated dust was left uncontained for five days in Mackay and incorrect safety equipment was used at Banyo."

He said that the department quickly issued notices to the contractors but said that the federal government should have a national workplace safety plan in place for work around the NBN.

The revelation comes after Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, Telstra CEO David Thodey, NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley and a number of other stakeholders met this morning for crisis talks around dealing with asbestos in Telstra pits and pipes.

In a press conference this afternoon, Shorten said that there would be a national asbestos exposure register set up to allow the public to report suspected cases of asbestos exposure, and there would be a new independent taskforce set up to monitor contractors working on Telstra pits.

The taskforce will be made up of senior Telstra representatives, representatives of Commonwealth and state regulators, industry groups, asbestos victims groups and would be chaired by Geoff Fary, who headed up the Australian government's asbestos management review.

Shorten was full of praise for Thodey, who he said had accepted full responsibility for Telstra's infrastructure.

"Telstra confirmed that it was Telstra's responsibility to ensure that subcontractors performing work in communications pits were adequately trained, properly supervised and they followed correct procedures," he said.

"Telstra [also] reaffirmed its commitment to adequately compensate people exposed to asbestos containing material."

He said that Thodey also committed to reporting back to the government quickly on all infrastructure containing asbestos, and outline a program for removing asbestos-containing material from Telstra's pits.

Thodey said in a statement this afternoon that the stop work on pit remediation will stay in place for contractors until further training on handling asbestos containing material had been completed, and Telstra will assess whether it can prioritise the removal of pits containing asbestos as part of the NBN rollout.

Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull this afternoon said that the government was not entirely blameless, questioning why Shorten, who had raised the issue of asbestos in Telstra's ducts in 2009 prior to the establishment of NBN Co, had not brought up the issue with Telstra again in the intervening years, and when he took over as workplace relations minister in 2011.

"The attempt to push this all on to Telstra is frankly a lawyer's argument," he said.

Turnbull has stated that should the Coalition win the September election, it would ensure workplace safety procedures are upheld, and claimed that because the policy would be fibre to the node, rather than fibre to the premises, this would require far less disturbance of Telstra ducts.

"The reason why they are digging up pits is because a lot of the pits to take the copper infrastructure are too small to accommodate the fibre. And so this is why ducts too are having to be replaced," he told ABC News Breakfast.

"The virtue of fibre-to-the-node is that all of that infrastructure running under streets, some of which has fibre cement in it and so forth — is basically left as it is and you use that last four, five, six, seven hundred meters of copper infrastructure. You continue to use that, you don’t have to disturb that, but you can nonetheless achieve very high speeds and much higher indeed than people will need or pay for in a residential environment."

Topics: NBN, Telcos, Telstra


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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  • LOL Tumball. That's right you don't have to disturb that 'last mile' of copper with FttN, that is until someone orders fibre on demand which some have claimed will be cheaper and thus more popular under the coalition clowns plan. So we'll have the same Telstra asbestos issues to deal with regardless;-)

    I saw Thodey take full responsibility for the asbestos clusterfuск today. Good for him. Makes what Tumball is saying even more hilarious. He desperately wants some of the responsibility to go to NBNco and/or the government to make his fraudband plan look less asbestoey;-)
    Hubert Cumberdale
  • Very enlightening

    "The federal regulator's chief executive, Paul O'Connor, told a Senate hearing yesterday that 20 incidents of asbestos mishandling at communications pits had been identified since January 1, after only 10 others in the years since 1996.

    Mr O'Connor warned of "systemic issues with Telstra and NBN Co" and noted they had shared responsibility for health and safety.

    "There can be the case where there is a project like this, the rollout of the National Broadband Network, that the head contractor NBN Co has accountabilities, as does Telstra as the owner of the telecommunications infrastructure, which as we know is legacy infrastructure and does include an amount of asbestos-containing material in communications throughout the country," he said."

    Obvious to all but the children. Lets hear from them again...
    Richard Flude
  • The Australian comes up with just the right amount of spin, this time however just a bit too late. Everyone already knows who's responsibility it is... even David Thodey apparently;-)

    btw you should probably read their terms & conditions. It says right there you are not permitted to copy/republish anything you find on the site. Pay walled too. Are you trying to get Zdnet in trouble? Also for fun take note of (a). I like that one;-)
    Hubert Cumberdale
    • Obvious why you wouldn't want sources quoted

      Clearly the "everyone" that knows doesn't include those that know:

      "Asked if the Commonwealth could be liable for the breaches as part of the chain of responsibility, Mr O'Connor said: "At a general level, yes".

      "I won't venture a specific answer," he said.

      Liberal senator Eric Abetz then asked: "But as the legislation is designed it does stand to reason that the Commonwealth of Australia as an entity is potentially liable as well?"

      "That is my understanding," Mr O'Connor replied."

      Obvious before the meeting; reinforced by heads of responsible agencies and the minister yet Humperdinck still peddles his line; unsurprisingly shouting down quoting the very people that can correct his position.

      Some of us are happy to pay for news.
      Richard Flude
      • Oh you mean...

        A similar Senate hearing like the one where Telstra said their copper needed replacing way back in 2003?

        But of course that Senate hearing didn't fit the ideological and selfish financial crusade so it was brushed, this one does (to a small degree) so it's gospel.

        Pertinent words. "Potentially liable as well". Close enough eh?
        • RS, no I don't

          History had already showed the evidence you present as wrong; yet you're still trying to use it. Only yesterday you were posting about using the same copper network in regional areas.

          This is not gospel, but the considered opinion of the regulator. You can disagree with it, or present alternative evidence. Whining isn't an argument.

          More risk to be ignored; blame anyone but NBNCo.
          Richard Flude
          • "Whining isn't an argument. "

            Hubert Cumberdale
          • Blah blah

            Refusing to accept the actuals to try to win your first debate, Mr Straw man


            Tell us again about the 7.1% ROI making the NBN off budget, Mr Masters?
          • The ROI was critical to it being off-budget

            Essential to being a GBE. This is never disputed; the ignorant waving misleading Treasury analysis unable to understand what it means.

            But continue...
            Richard Flude
          • NO... NO... NO...

            And again NO Richard... You have been given this information before yet you refuse to accept it...

            There's a pattern forming here... SO AGAIN...

            "Payments between the government and NBN Co (for example, dividends paid to government or adjustment of asset values) directly affect the budget statements. Such payments are indirectly affected by the success and therefore rate of return generated by NBN Co. However, this is in direct contrast to the idea that a return below a specific benchmark triggers an accounting rule where treatment of NBN Co is switched from ‘off-budget’ to ‘on-budget’ (see box 1 below). There is no such accounting rule."


            READ MY LIPS - there is NO such accounting rule... got it this time?

            Just because YOU say it was ... does not make it so..
          • I suggest you read the GBE act

            1995 from memory.
            Richard Flude
          • From the horses mouth...

            "However, this is in direct contrast to the idea that a return below a specific benchmark triggers an accounting rule where treatment of NBN Co is switched from ‘off-budget’ to ‘on-budget’... There is no such accounting rule."
          • Sorry...

            You don't define which Senate hearing is or isn't pertinent?
          • History had already shown your evidence was wrong

            by the time you used it.

            You can argue against the evidence present here if you like; given your experience and qualifications it would be fun.

            Your raising testimony given years ago that history had shown was wrong by the time you raised it is not the same at all. That you dont see the difference exposes to others what was plain after your first couple of posts.
            Richard Flude
          • You don't know my qualifications...

            And reading your infantile conclusions to err everything, I'd suggest your so called qualifications are non-existent internet hero qualifications only...

            Tells us again about the ROI and off budget, that's always good for a laugh...

            Err, how is Telstra admitting to a Senate inquiry that their copper needs replacing (in 2003) and me highlighting that, evidence I was wrong...

            What sort of backward logic is that...?

            Telstra said it, I showed it, but you refute it (without foundation) and then claim I am wrong...? Sounds like the ultimate strawman with triple pike and double somersault.

            Nice try, but no banana, Telstra said it at a Senate inquiry and just because the copper is limping home and you support anything and everything to support your ideology and wallet including degraded copper (PICK ME AND MY < $10 PM FIBRE COMPANY FOT USER PAYS AND SUBSIDIES), you simply say Telstra lied to the Senate inquiry...


            I suppose you have a dumb, illogical answer for everything else too? So far... yes indeed.
      • Shoulda, coulda, woulda. But apparently not

        On terms of who is doing what. the contractors assigned to pit remediation for abestos are doing so uner telstra. Wha thappens is alot of these contractors also work for the NBN. It is a case of the contractor is working for Telstra while sorting out the asbestos then (quite often in the same day) will turn around and be working for NBN while laying fibre.

        The problem here is perception. Because Telstra is doing the remediation for NBN using many of the same contractors, it becomes very easy to create the perception that it is NBN that is to blame. This leads to anyone with an agenda, i.e the liberals, the media, Richard, using this as a way to try and convince everyone that the primary or major portion of the blame lies with NBN.

        The comments come from a primarily unbiased article. The comments included could be used to show bias; e.g. why use comments like that instead of this. However I believe they were more focused on reporting was said. Who said it is the key detail. What has to be kept in mind when using this as supporting evidence is that the people were liberals who have a clear agenda against the NBN. The questions they put forward and how they asked it were designed to get a specific response. To try to use this as fact or the "whole story" is at best flimsy.
        • The quotes weren't from Liberals

          But the regulator. Even the Labor minister Ferguson agree with my position.

          The use of subcontractors never absolves the party contracting them. This is true for Telstra, and for NBNCo. It is not a problem of perception, but the legal reality.

          I love that bias is always something that disagrees with their own self declared unbiased position; even when formed with little foundation.
          Richard Flude
          • Correction: Shorten was the Minister

            The last man standing in Labor with any idea, the other few like Martin Ferguson having announced his departure after the upcoming election.

            A party of Conroy's remaining;-)
            Richard Flude
          • Read please again Richard

            Again you have sidestepped of most what I said and simply picked out one small area to try and disprove the rest.

            Is the fact that Telstra is responsible for its property and how they are handled and have actually come out and said so irrelevant?

            Apparently so because all that you seemed to read was "The quotes were from liberals".

            Of course if you read what I had said you will see I was trying to prove or disprove bias. I found no apparent bias in the article. Nor the comments made by regulator. I was trying to show how the comments made were a response to questions asked by a party with an agenda. Specifically by a liberal. A liberal who is part of a party trying their hardest to discredit everything the NBNco is currently doing. I also said that these questions were set up to create a biased response. Never did I say that the responses made were from a liberal.

            Moving on. I have never once said that I am unbiased. I know I am biased. It is impossible not to be. I do however try to be open minded. I challenge you to do the same.

            And yes, the people hiring contractors are responsible, to a degree, for what they do. I also said that the people doing the pit remediation work are contracted under Telstra when they do. The fact that they also work for NBN is both irrelevant and leads to misconceptions that you seem to be content on exploiting. I don't like exploiting lies to push my agenda.

            Finally I would like to apologise for the rushed spelling and grammar. I was in more of a hurry then i would have like to been to reply to that. And I was mostly doing it from my phone.