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Monday, 3 June 2013
Page: 4788

National Broadband Network

Mr TURNBULL (Wentworth) (14:37): My question is to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, and I refer to his previous answers and the letter he has just tabled. Since it is clear that from March 2009, the month before the NBN Co. was actually established, the minister was personally aware of asbestos in Telstra infrastructure, why did he apparently not have any meetings or further contact with Telstra or the NBN Co. concerning asbestos prior to last week—and, if he did, could he tell us what the contact was?

Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongMinister for Financial Services and Superannuation and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) (14:38): In March 2009—and I am sorry the member for Wentworth has not followed my career as closely as he ought to have—I was the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children's Services. So, of course, as parliamentary secretary for disabilities I still wrote to Telstra, because people had come to me and said there were concerns and, as a conscientious member of parliament, you still raise issues. But, if the member for Wentworth is saying that as parliamentary secretary for disabilities somehow I am not doing my job there, let us have a look at the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which the leader opposite is so keen to hug.

When we talk about asbestos, since I have become the minister we have implemented the Asbestos Management Review and we have put in place a national agency. When the matters in Penrith came to light, I went up on the weekend to go and see the residents and to hear from them. I would be interested to see how the member for Wentworth went with the residents of Penrith when he met with them, if he has actually done that, seeing that he is very keen to give advice. But, furthermore, I convened a meeting with Telstra. I am having a look at my correspondence, Member for Wentworth, on all the occasions on which you have raised with me the issues of asbestos and Telstra. What I might suggest here is that what really matters is the safety of Australians. What really matters is dealing with exposure to asbestos. What really matters is not taking some sort of petty political right-wing points—

Mr Turnbull: Madam Speaker, I raise a point of order on relevance. We are seeking to give the minister the opportunity to answer a very specific question as to why he did not raise the matter with Telstra between March—

The SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat. The minister has concluded his answer.