NBN Co should take asbestos responsibility: analyst

Guy Cranswick has also called on Telstra to provide greater transparency around the issue of asbestos

NBN Co should take some of the responsibility for the asbestos mishandling issue, according to IBRS analyst Guy Cranswick.

Telstra has been quick to acknowledge it is responsible for asbestos in pits and pipes which are being remediated for the National Broadband Network (NBN), with the telco stating in its asbestos management procedure that Telstra contractors will follow work practices.

However, Cranswick said NBN Co is also partially responsible.

“The awareness of the legacy situation in this area would’ve been fully apparent to the likes of the CEO and other senior executives at NBN Co and I would say exactly the same for Telstra,” he said.

“[In] another sense [with] NBN Co, it was a duty of care. It was an issue of knowledge and managerial oversight and I think that there’s probably been some responsibility [that] can be assigned to NBN Co on that side.

“Although the full task of repair, removal and management and so on of course lies with Telstra.”

Cranswick said NBN Co should be on top of its contractual obligations and dismissed the claim that NBN Co can only know if something goes wrong if it is told.

“I would’ve said that [excuse] works really well when you’re about 11 years old, but when you graduate out of high school it becomes less and less tenable,” Cranswick said.

“It’s a case of ‘you should’ve known’. It’s like when politicians are held to account for something and they say ‘well, we didn’t know’ … [They] should have known how to have dealt with that.”

However, Cranswick said Telstra shoulders most of the blame with the mishandling of asbestos.

He said Telstra should have had greater managerial oversight on how to handle asbestos instead of just “reacting” to it, but said “I think this is quite simply a human error of quite large managerial proportions”.

Cranswick has called on Telstra to provide greater transparency around the issue of asbestos, such as a website providing information about what stage Telstra is at with its asbestos cleanout.

But he added that the problems with asbestos should not mean the NBN needs to be abandoned.

"Leave asbestos undisturbed"

The Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union has called for asbestos to removed from all Telstra pits, according to a report in the Australian.

However, Geoff Johnson, research vice-president at Gartner, said the best practice is to leave asbestos undisturbed.

This is Telstra’s current policy, as per its asbestos management procedure document.

For damaged pits or where there is an “unacceptable health risk”, Telstra will consider removing or replacing asbestos pits.

Johnson, who has previously worked at Telstra as a lines engineer and cable plant manager, said the asbestos issue is not as big a problem as is being made out to be.

“Basically the practice, like the rest of the building industry, is don’t touch it unless you have to. It’s really misguided if politicians or the community think the safe thing to do is going around ripping it all up,” Johnston said.

He said that with a federal election to be held in three months, parties will be “keen” to continue to politicise it.

“I think you’re going to see Bill Shorten promote himself on this one and the politicians are going to make a party of it,” he said.

“I saw people interviewed on television last night who had lost a family member to mesothelioma and their concern was the families are going to have to sit around and worry now for 30 years about whether they have mesothelioma or not because there was asbestos somewhere.

“Now that’s just scaremongering in a community – that’s just not right. That needs to be corrected.”

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Tags asbestosNational Broadband Network (NBN)Telstra

More about BillElectrical and Plumbing UnionGartnerIBRSTelstra Corporation

9 Comments

Bob_WA

1

I suppose we can't stop politicians from politicising whatever they touch. But it is wrong to blame the asbestos problem on NBN. Whether NBN has to rip out the old pit liners over five years, or Telstra does it over twenty years in the ordinary course of maintenance, makes no difference to the problem.

Greg

2

True its not the NBNCo issue. It is the owner of the pits and ducts that is responsible. Also the Liberal Leader was telecommunications Minister and knew of the issue years ago. So why was it not fixed under the Howard Gov't? So if anyone is to blame its the current leader of the opposition, for not fixing the issue years ago.

Raymond

3

Greg, you are a moron, They were installed in 1980, why did Hawke not pull them out, why did shorten as a union leader not pull them out, why did Whitlam not pull down every house built with asbestos.
In any case Telstra will replace the lot, announcement shortly, get with the program!

Greg

4

@Raymond.
1. Whitlam was not in politics back in 1980 get with the program. Fraser & Howard were in charge from 1975 on wards Raymond.
2. Tony Abbott became aware of this back in 2001 when he was Telecommunications Minister, so he just passed the buck.
3. These pits etc if you actually knew anything were used back in the 1990's by Foxtel installing their cables. My cousin had the contract to install the FoxTel cable through out Sydney. These pits were used by them and hence any of his staff were exposed.
Bill Shorten may have been a union leader, however as the directors of Telstra had this information and failed to pass it onto their employees etc. Called duty of disclosure. I suggest you go read some OH&S legislation.
3. As James Hardie actually made and sold the asbestos products, the manufacturer of the product should be made to go out and rebuild or as you put it pull them down Raymond.
Laughs at the moron tag,

gnome

5

@Greg, that's a good response.

As usual, it's pretty clear who is the moron; he digs himself a deeper hole every time he posts.

Raymond

6

Greg, you are a moronic imbecile, closely related to the head village idiot! some lessons in fact dear boy, 1..hundreds of homes were built with James Hardie product during Whitlams short time.
1a..Mr Hawke and Mr Keating have just gone into shock! check the facts idiot!

2..Tony Abbott was never minister for Communications, Helen Noonan was, Abbott was minister for Work Place Relations.

3..The cousin never had the contract, he was just a subbie.You have two ..3's not used to this bit nervous are we!
So, take the head out of wherever you keep it , take a deep breath, finish your homework, study hard and you just may reach year 2

But good luck with that!

Raymond

7

Ah Gnome,
Might have guessed you would join in.
So Gnome, was ever Hawke and Keating in power?
Was Tony Abbott ever Comms Minister?
Did James Hardie ever make product that houses were built with?
You must be related, as you are referred to as the assistant Village Idiot.

Kat.

8

Geez, the trolls are even in here now.... Anyway, who is this Cranswick clown? I've never heard of him, plus he's talking through his hat.

gnome

9

Just one troll, Kat.

He's been at it for so long and with so little intelligence that he's a bit like one of those annoying ads that we quickly learn to completely ignore.

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