Bill's Media Releases

First meeting of asbestos taskforce

The first meeting of the independent asbestos taskforce occurred today at Parliament House in Canberra.

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

 At today’s meeting, Telstra, contractors, regulators and unions agreed on the application of Telstra asbestos training standards to Telstra workers and Telstra contractors.

 It was also agreed that Telstra will recommence remediation only when Telstra and contractors safe work procedures and training for asbestos handling are in place.

 Telstra will develop, in consultation with Comcare, material to communicate with residents on remediation work.

 Telstra will report to the Taskforce with a plan for prioritised removal of asbestos containing materials in Telstra pits where:

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

  • Pits require modification or remediation 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 next meeting of the taskforce will be held on Thursday 13 June 2013.

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

 Australia was the most prolific user of asbestos containing materials in the world.

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

 Moving from a ‘risk management’ approach to a ‘priority removal’ approach is part of this move to best practice and a stated objective of the National Strategic Plan.

 The National Strategic Plan will be driven by the new national Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency which will commence on 1 July 2013.

 The Australian Labor movement has led and will continue to lead the national charge on identifying and eradicating the scourge of asbestos and asbestos related disease.

 The taskforce membership includes senior Telstra representatives, NBN Co. representatives, the Office of Asbestos Safety, Comcare and workplace health and safety regulators, industry union representatives, work, health and safety experts, Barry Robson (Asbestos Disease Foundation of Australia) and Geoff Fary (Chair Asbestos Management Review).