back to article Asbestos finds interrupt NBN preparations

The rollout of the National Broadband Network has uncovered some nasty secrets: the use of asbestos cement in old Telstra pits, and the endemic dodginess of Australia's construction sector. Asbestos has been turning up in pits all over the country, with reports coming in from Penrith in NSW, Ballarat in Victoria, Launceston in …

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Anonymous Coward

"endemic dodginess of Australia's construction sector"

It is very hard to express just what an understatement that half sentence is. Unless you start using words like "mafia", "organised crime" or "corrupt mongrels who wouldn't work in an iron lung".

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Anonymous Coward

and in breaking news

water is wet. I had some work to do along edge of my own property. A rusted star picket with bleached yellow tags on fence every 100 meters indicated something in the ground that might be telco owned. Tag stated cable down 1 meter and 3 meters in.

When local contractor arrived,and did cable location, it was 0.5 meter down and 4 meters in. He said this was pretty good for Telstra contractors. May not mean much, until one needs to do driveway repairs, fencing, tree planting. So finding lethal hardware is not surprising, given how much the dangers of asbestos were ignored by all for decades. Even ancient Romans knew slaves in the asbestos mines and wick making industries did not live long. <rant>

Further along fence lines we are still finding cables not recorded anywhere which are essential communications for locals. Again, this is not unusual, as the privatisation of infrastructure causes information loss. Plans get mislaid when offices are closed and local site info vanishes with permanent employees. I thank ${DEITY} that my IT work has made me a paranoid distrustful cynic. Otherwise I may have damaged these lines and been bankrupted by the repair costs.

Our potential new government of the people, by the (rich) people, wants to increase the probability of disaster by selling the house now the silver is gone. A few more years and we will have a mining based lunar landscape and be paying rent to foreign landlords wile being told how we need to be competitive with $2 a day Africans. Oh wait, that has happened. ($2 a day wage anyway) Some farmers are faced with lunar landscape in one state at least.

AC because who trusts any pollie or vindictive Big Company (tm) ? </rant>

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Anonymous Coward

Re: and in breaking news

Life is much easier to endure once you accept and embrace the fallibility of Australian workers mankind.

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Facepalm

Re: and in breaking news

"Otherwise I may have damaged these lines and been bankrupted by the repair costs."

there is always http://1100.com.au or for us older units, Dial Before You Dig *

Tho, knowing roughly where the water, gas, leccy and phone lines are on my own piece of suburbia, I would think it would only be a good guess by 1100, having seen *and heard* what a landscaper did to the gas line in my front yard with a bob cat. I was wandering back from the train station when I heard the gas hissing! (Escaping gas also gives off a good looking vapor plume!)

Which makes q11 relevant at http://1100.com.au/aboutus/frequentlyaskedquestions#

* Used to be Dial 1100 in the PMG days. Dunno who runs it these days. Prob the Singers Govt seeing as they own most of the infrastructure near Glenners W.

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Lack of construction experience by NBN execs

The NBN is headed by a bunch of sales and marketing folks. Sure, some of them were sales and marketing for tech firms -- but none of them have any experience with construction.

The asbestos is a well known issue by all in construction. Contracts between NBN, Lend Lease & sub contractors are poor -- they lead to the unintended consequences of shortcuts. It is normal that asbestos be a chargeable variation when found, this allows the person actually doing the work not to lose money to do the job legally. In the case of the NBN sub-contractors appear to be expected to magic the problem away .. which they tend to do in one way or another.

Media is missing the main culprit here - Lend Lease is the lead contractor for this work.

NBN is the biggest construction project in Australia is many years. In implementation terms it is barely a technology project - that bit is really straightforward. It is a construction, financing & marketing project.

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Bronze badge

RTFA

@factor. I downvoted you because you basically seem to have a bee in your bonnet about the NBN (fair enough) and started ranting apparently without having read the article. Here's a snippet:

"The incumbent carrier has responsibility for making sure that its pits and ducts have the space for the fibre and haven't collapsed over the years."

Re-read the article. The whole thing talks about how TELSTRA (said "incumbent carrier") and their subcontractors screwed the pooch by allowing this asbestos mess to happen. HOW it happened is bound to be wife with speculation and conspiracy rumours around the cooler. It is only now that the NBN is doing inspections before taking over the infrastructure that this and other (lack of) maintenance issues are surfacing.

I don't have a problem with you not liking the NBN. I *do* have a problem with the FUDD you disseminate in the process.

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Facepalm

Re: RTFA

*rife with speculations

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Re: RTFA

@Neoc - perhaps I am pointing the author to the area he is missing. This article is not the only source of information about NBN construction issues. Indeed, most of the media has missed the *why* of this event. It is normal for most of the media to miss the *why* of most situations, but quite often The Reg can apply logic that other reporters cannot.

Asbestos is a known problem. Execs can't outsource the blame when they setup the conditions for such a safety breach.

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Re: RTFA

So let me get this straight:

TELSTRA (or their sub-contractors) installed/upgraded the pits and tunnels. TELSTRA (or their sub-contractors) used Asbestos for said pits/tunnels and didn't bother telling anyone or recording it where it could be found. NBN comes along to do inspections of the structures before taking them over and finds said asbestos.

But somehow, in your world, this makes it NBN's fault? I'm no big fan of NBN myself, but this is ridiculous.

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FAIL

What a load of hype from the media - yet again!

I work in an industry where we have regular exposure to communications and electrical cable pits. It is well known by all in the trade where I work that pits that were installed in the 80's or older may contain asbestos cement and they are treated with due care.

If management of the workers was not aware of this it is a fail on their part. The media has just jumped on an over hyped something which should have been a well known fact. The only issue here is what was stated about the dodgy practices involved in disposal of the contaminated material, however again - no real surprises there either...

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Re: What a load of hype from the media - yet again!

I did some reading up on this a couple of years ago, so my knowledge may be a little out of date, but...

There's a big difference between asbestos cement and asbestos used in insulation and brake linings etc.

Generally, the asbestos cement contains a low percentage of asbestos, typically < 10% (I believe as low as 3% usually), and it's mostly white asbestos, not the really nasty blue stuff. The asbestos is therefore mostly well bound by the cement, and the advice is (was?) to leave it in place if it is in good condition *and* can be isolated from people *and* won't get abraded or drilled into. That said, most companies operate a zero tolerance for any asbestos.

Some UK household waste recycling centres will accept the old corrugated asbestos roofing commonly used in garages, sheds etc because it is considered to be low grade, low risk. Look around, you may be surprised just how much of that old corrugated stuff there is...

Remember, there was a time when no-one knew that asbestos was harmful, and it was a very handy for binding and insulating. Anyone remember the original rawlplug compound? That had asbestos in it. As did the filters in the gas masks issued to the military and UK population during WW2...

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