Monday, 3 June 2013
Questions without Notice
National Broadband Network
My question is to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. I refer to his previous answer in which he referred to a letter he wrote to Telstra about its pits in 2009, two years before the NBN signed its deal with Telstra. Did the letter refer to asbestos? Did it refer to the NBN Co.? In what capacity did he write it, and will he table a copy of it?
In terms of the issues which the shadow minister is raising, I will go to a number of the points which are inherent in the question. The first point is that what has triggered this debate is the debate about what has been happening in Penrith. I had the opportunity to go and meet the residents—
Opposition members interjecting—
Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The minister was asked a very simple question about the relevance of his letter that he mentioned in his answer before. He needs to explain an answer to the member for Wentworth's question very clearly.
I will refer to the question in terms of my answer. The issue which has prompted the member for Wentworth's question, of course, has been the most recent reports about asbestos exposure in Penrith and, indeed, the role of Telstra and contractors, and responsibility for that exposure.
The first point I want to make in coming to the answer of the member's question is this: asbestos should not be a political football. I met with a family whose 11-week-old child may have been exposed to asbestos. This is a very serious matter. This is why I do not believe it is appropriate that we use exposure to asbestos in a political way, which the member for Wentworth is doing. What is it about asbestos exposure which the opposition do not get? It is not politics; it actually should be above politics.
The second point I wish to make is that the meeting we had just before has agreed—stakeholders, including Telstra and contractors, have agreed—that there should be, for the first time ever, a national public health register for exposure. That is a very important breakthrough. And it does not just extend to employees or contractors. Under this Labor government, which has got a track record of tackling asbestos, what we will do is establish a public health register. Those opposite had 12 years to do it when they were in power, and they just did not do it.
I know the coalition has moved to the far right, but it is disappointing to see the member for Wentworth having to demonstrate his right-wing bona fides by engaging in this cheap politics.