Qld Govt widens asbestos scandal

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Qld Govt widens asbestos scandal

Unclear if issues relate to Telstra or NBN Co.

The asbestos scandal engulfing Telstra has spread to Queensland, with the state government alleging “serious breaches” uncovered at three "NBN" worksites.

Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said the state's work safety regulator found "extremely disturbing" incidents at sites in Banyo, Carseldine and Mackay.

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

Bleijie said notices had been issued to the unspecified "contractors" at the sites. He called on the Federal Government to ensure appropriate safeguards for the handling of asbestos were met.

A Telstra spokesperson has been contacted for comment.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the Queensland Government had not contacted either NBN Co or Telstra about the issue.

"We'll be looking to see whether they are Telstra remediation pits or [NBN Co]," Conroy said in a press conference.

He said there was no need for a nation-wide stop work, as had occured at Penrith, NSW after three sites were discovered to contain asbestos materials.

"We've got an investigation and we should see what the findings are."

Cases to date have fallen under Telstra's responsibility as part of its work to remediate pit-and-pipe assets to make them ready for use by NBN Co.

Asbestos was last week discovered at Telstra sites in NSW and Victoria, while Telstra today said more cases had been reported in Ballarat, Perth, Adelaide and Tasmania.

Telstra was criticised over its mishandling of the issue, with residents in Penrith, west of Sydney, forced to evacuate their homes while a clean-up was conducted.

Telstra said it would recruit 200 workers to supervise contractors' pit and pipe remediation.

Workplace Minister Bill Shorten today said Telstra was first notified of asbestos issues related to the NBN rollout in 2009.

"Out of Telstra’s 8 million pits, between 10 and 20 percent may have asbestos in them," Shorten said. "Not all will be used in the NBN rollout."

Legislation to a establish a national public health register for concerned citizens and accompanying national asbestos agency passed the lower house of parliament today. 

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