Sunday, 9 June 2013

Abbott and Asbestos

Hansard 3 June 2013:

Mr ABBOTT (Warringah—Leader of the Opposition) (14:10): My question is to the Prime Minister. I remind her that her government has committed some $50 million to advertising the National Broadband Network. Does the Prime Minister agree that this $50 million could have been better spent ensuring that communities in Western Sydney, Ballarat, Adelaide, Perth and Tasmania were protected from exposure to asbestos resulting from the National Broadband Network rollout?

Coastal Leader 4 June 2013:

Telstra tried to fast-track compensation arrangements for its employees exposed to asbestos but was rebuffed by Tony Abbott's own department back in 2001.
With the opposition on Monday leading a parliamentary attack on the government over its alleged lack of urgency in addressing asbestos discovered in Telstra junction pits being handed over to the NBN, Fairfax Media has learnt the giant telco wanted to create an independent body to accelerate compensation and sought approval from the Department of Workplace Relations.
However, the department, then under the ministerial leadership of Mr Abbott, rejected the plan.
The emergence of Telstra's previous attempt to get on the front foot on the issue comes as the telco agreed to take ''ultimate responsibility'' to deal with asbestos used in its infrastructure.


The Age 17 August 17 2005:

The Federal Government's joint party room has approved the full sale of Telstra, Prime Minister John Howard said today. The sale is expected to take place in 2006.

Hansard  7 February 2006
Mr Andren asked the Minister representing the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, in writing, on 15 September 2005:

(1)   How much asbestos has been purchased by Telstra from James Hardies Industries and how much has been used.
(2)   How many of Telstra’s underground installations and exchanges contain asbestos or products manufactured from asbestos.
(3)   How frequently do Telstra employees or contractors come into contact with asbestos in the course of carrying out maintenance in exchanges or underground installations.
(4)   What safety procedures are in place to protect Telstra’s employees and contractors against exposure to asbestos in the course of carrying out maintenance in exchanges or underground installations.
(5)   How many cases of asbestosis amongst current and former Telstra employees and contractors have been reported to date.

Mr McGauran (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) —The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts has provided the following answer, based on advice provided by Telstra, to the honourable member’s question:

(1)   Telstra and its predecessors, Post Master General and Telecom, have not purchased any asbestos from James Hardies Industries since approximately 1986. Telstra’s predecessors purchased cement pits and pipes containing asbestos (approximately 5-15% asbestos content depending on the type of product) from Hardies from about 1955 until about 1986 when these products were replaced with plastic alternatives. This material was purchased by government tender and Telstra is unable to provide details of the exact quantities purchased or used. Telstra has also noted that it is also likely that the vehicles used by Telstra’s predecessors contained asbestos friction products or brake linings purchased from Hardie Ferodo and Better Brakes, which was part of the James Hardie group of companies, as these were available in the public domain.
(2)   The Telstra network still contains pits made of cement with some asbestos content. These pits and pipes are comprised of asbestos cement with the pits containing approximately 5-15% asbestos bonded in a cement and silica matrix and the pipes containing 15% asbestos bonded in a cement and silica matrix. As this asbestos is bound to the cement and in low concentrations it does not present a hazard, unless friable (where the fibres become loose and airborne). In the case of pits and pipes, (as they are bound in a cement matrix) the asbestos fibres are not likely to become friable unless ground by a powered machine such as an electric grinder. Where exchange buildings contain in situ asbestos, these are documented and managed as per the processes outlined in the response to part (4). This is similar to other public and private buildings where in situ asbestos is present.
(3)   Telstra employees and contractors will come into contact from time to time with material containing asbestos during maintenance of underground installations or buildings. All contact is regulated by the asbestos management processes referred to in the response to part (4).
(4)   Telstra is required to - and does - comply with requirements of the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission (NOHSC) Code of Practice on Asbestos. Compliance is enforced by the Safety and Rehabilitation Commission (SRC) through its operational arm Comcare Australia. Briefly, the processes for the management of asbestos in Telstra involves:
  • The maintenance of an Asbestos Register at all exchanges that have asbestos;
  • All pits and pipes which are not plastic are treated as containing asbestos;
  • The regular inspection, maintenance or removal (if necessary) of the asbestos
  • All employees and contractors to observe strict guidelines for working in proximity to, handling or disposing of asbestos (eg. appropriate training and personal protective clothing such as gloves, respirators and disposal clothing are provided to carry out this work); and
  • Final disposal to be managed by licensed asbestos removal contractors.
All other contractors are also required to provide evidence of compliance with the relevant State and Federal occupational health and safety legislation and contractors meet regularly with Telstra to review compliance with this legislation.
(5)   Telstra has kept detailed records as to all asbestos related claims nationally from 2000. Since that time there have been 10 claims where asbestosis was alleged to have developed from exposure to asbestos during the employ of Telstra’s predecessors.


sue said...

So in answer to Tony Abbott, the Howard gov should have saved their advertising dollars for GST, "unchain my heart',and Workchoices, remember the union bullies and put the money into an Asbestos fund for all Australians.

Anonymous said...

I have seen in Telstra exchanges and there is asbestos everywhere.It is not managed correctly and has hundreds of exposed holes in it.It is still cut today by NBn,electrical and maintenance contractors who don't even know about the asbestos risk.Please send Comcare in.Mark my words Telstra Construction staff will pay a heavy price in the future.