Coalition says its NBN plan would cut asbestos risk

The federal Coalition claims its alternative plan for the National Broadband Network (NBN) would significantly cut the risk of exposure to asbestos material from Telstra Corp pits and pipes, according to The Australian Financial Review.

The opposition says that its plan to have fibre optic cables installed to nodes on street corners rather than directly to homes in most areas would allow Telstra to fix only a fraction of the one million pits it has to modify under the Labor government's NBN plan.

“Because we will simply bring fibre out to the distribution point, the street cabinet, all of the conduits and pits beyond that – the ones outside people's houses for example – will not be disturbed at all,” the opposition's shadow communications minister Malcolm Turnbull said, according to the AFR.

Telstra has been under pressure since reports emerged recently that its subcontractors were mishandling asbestos material in its pipes and pits, prompting a meeting on Monday that included Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten, Telstra representatives, industry members and asbestos victim groups to discuss the issue.

However, telecommunications consultant and safety expert Fernando Calero said the opposition's alternative NBN plan would still require Telstra to modify pits and pipes between Telstra exchanges and street corners, among other infrastructure, reducing any claims that it would lessen the asbestos liability, according to the AFR.