NBN contractor Visionstream has responded to comments made by the communications minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday accusing it of having downed tools in Tasmania for at least two months.
Turnbull told ABC local radio Visionstream had made no progress and work had been “dead in the water as far as progress is concerned in Tasmania for months”. He said the project had been “failing Tasmanians”.
A spokesperson for Turnbull later clarified work hadn’t stopped completely but had been “very slow and patchy”.
A Visionstream spokesperson today denied the contractor had stopped work.
The spokesperson said the company was currently undertaking “construction of fibre servicing area modules (FSAM) in Launceston, a large amount of aerial cabling across the state, and is issuing tenders for new construction civil works as work packages are released by NBN.”
It conceded it had suffered delays to work volumes as a result of unsafe asbestos handling discovered during Telstra pit remediation, but said it was working with both the telco and NBN Co to commence construction of works as it is deemed safe to do so.
Telstra was forced to halt remediation work in May for more than two months, after several subcontractors were discovered mishandling asbestos. Visionstream was similarly forced to stop work on pit remediation in Tasmania during that time.
The company also denied reports it had slashed its workforce in the state from 550 to 50 full-time workers. It said it had “always maintained about 200 local staff on the ground” as well as a variable contract workforce.
Visionstream’s Tasmanian rollout has been dogged by pay disputes with subcontractors, which claim to be owed up to $15 million. The disputes allegedly forced subcontractors to let go of 200 workers due to an inability to pay them.
Visionstream won the $300 million Tasmanian NBN contract in March last year. It covers a fibre rollout to 200,000 Tasmanian homes and businesses within four years.