Even the risk to workers in the NBN asbestos events would seem to me to be over-stated, let alone that to residents. Asbestos is a dangerous product, but huge numbers of us have experienced significant exposure to it without developing any signs of asbestosis.
In the 60s and 70s I was Dad’s labourer as he renovated various beach cottages that we owned. This was an environment where cheap materials were used, and preferably those that could withstand prolonged exposure to the elements, particularly salt spray.
“Fibro” or asbestos fibreboard as it is generically known, was the material of choice, not just for external and internal cladding of walls, but for roofs as well. Particularly roofs, as they regularly rusted away under the ministrations of the coastal gales.
At first we used to cut the boards using specially designed cutters which cut by punching thin sticks of asbestos out from between the two parts of the sheet you wanted to separate. These made great play swords until they broke.
But sometime in the 70s someone invented a circular saw blade that would cut asbestos. Dad loved this invention. It was a spectacular process where a tornado of asbestos dust billowed out from the saw and distributed a thin sheet of dust over everything.
I can still remember the effect it made lying over the hairs of my arm. Unlike normal dirt it tended to cling.
By now you are probably getting the impression that I had a fair bit of exposure to asbestos, and you would be right. Dad had even more. Not only was he the principal artisan, but in his day job as a marine engineer he was also exposed to asbestos in the lagging that was used around piping in ships (the cause of death of some sailors).
Yet, when Dad died aged 93 there was no sign of exposure. Last time someone had cause to look at my lungs there was no sign either, and modesty forbids me from boasting how well they work in the gym.
Apparently 600 or so of us die from asbestosis each year. That sounds like a large number, but it is actually around the same level as the Queensland annual road toll.
Given that my experience was certainly not unique, that means that the residents exposed to the current NBN misadventures in asbestos are highly unlikely to suffer any ill effects at all. It is probably much more dangerous for them to hop into their car and drive to the next suburb.