Bill's Media Releases

Asbestos taskforce

Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Bill Shorten welcomed the progress made at the second meeting of the independent asbestos taskforce today in Melbourne.

 Telstra and NBN Co confirmed to the taskforce that they were working with the unions and Comcare to ensure all Telstra and NBN employees and contractors are trained in safe removal and handling of asbestos from Telstra pits.

 Specifically, Telstra, NBN, unions and Comcare are as a matter of priority working to finalise the content of training material, delivery of training and identifiable training certification.

 Work on Telstra pits containing asbestos will only resume when that training has been completed by employees and contractors.

 The taskforce noted that many pits established since the late 1980s do not contain asbestos and where that is the case, work will continue as normal.

 Telstra undertook to further report on its plan for prioritised removal of ACMs in Telstra pits where:

  • pits are damaged and may pose a public safety risk;

  • pits require modification for work associated with the NBN rollout; and

  • business driven requirements to remove or modify pits (for example, to increase capacity or for changes to local infrastructure).


 The taskforce also endorsed its oversight arrangements. Comcare inspectors, working with state work health and safety regulators, will be checking the safety of the work and reporting outcomes to the taskforce. Telstra and NBN Co has also appointed independent monitors.

 Asbestos is a cruel, indiscriminate killer and because of its widespread use over much of the 20th century, remains a persistent threat to Australians.

 The Gillard Labor Government views the identification and removal of asbestos as an absolute priority.

 The Government is determined to ensure Australia is a world leader in the safe removal of asbestos containing materials in homes and workplaces.

 The Gillard Labor Government is delivering a national plan of action aimed at eliminating asbestos-related diseases.

 The taskforce was established by the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten, and the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, on 3 June to monitor Telstra’s ongoing activities and prevent exposure to asbestos, including comprehensive training and supervision of contractors.

 The taskforce is headed by Geoff Fary (Chair Asbestos Management Review). Its membership includes representatives from Telstra, NBN Co., the Office of Asbestos Safety, Comcare and other government regulators, industry unions, asbestos community support groups and health and safety experts.

 The Gillard Labor Government established the first National Asbestos Exposure Register last week. The register captures the details of members of the community who think they may have been exposed to asbestos containing materials.

 The register is managed by the Office of Asbestos Safety and is available on its website at www.deewr.gov.au/office-asbestos-safety.

 If residents or businesses wish to report suspected asbestos containing material, please call the national work health and safety regulator, Comcare, on 1800 888 468.