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The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

Launch of Sustainable House Day and LivingGreener.gov.au; ceiling insulation rebates; Gorgon project

Doorstop interview: Launch of the Sustainable House Day & LivingGreener.gov.au
E&OE Transcript
21 August 2009

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GARRETT: It is a great day today at this Sustainable House, and also the day on which the Government launches its LivingGreener.gov.au fantastic portal website for Australians to have an easy to access guide to what they can do in their homes to reduce their energy costs, to use water more efficiently and to continue that great journey that we're all on to make our houses more energy efficient and to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. And I really appreciate the fact that we are here in Randwick at Barrett House and we're seeing an example of what can happen in a house in a suburb, in Randwick, where there are so many practical actions that people can take and so many fantastic, accessible technologies — whether it is double glazing, whether it is the way in which water is being captured and used for the garden, whether it is the incredible savings that are open to us in our choices of lighting with some 90 per cent in terms of energy saving whether you choose halogen or whether you choose LED lighting.

The LivingGreener website is there for all Australians to take the action that they want to take to make their homes more comfortable in winter, more comfortable in summer, more energy efficient and to do their bit to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions on the whole. And I am really delighted at the way in which the site has come together — it is accessible, it is easy to understand. We'll continue to add information to it which is necessary because not only does it help you if you want to take action in your home, not only does it provide you with more information if you need more information, not only does it provide you with the helpful tips about the kinds of appliances that are good in your kitchen, the kinds of materials that you can use, the Government's programs on for example ceiling insulation rebates — how they work — but it also provides you and it will continue to provide more information for the other supports that are available from both state and local governments as well.

Can I congratulate Randwick City Council. Nick, thanks very much for showing me around this house, on the work that you're doing. Can I encourage people to get out this weekend (Sunday, September 13) for Sustainable House Day because there will be some 170 houses around Australia where you can actually walk through and see what the present the looks like as we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and can I invite people to have a look now at the LivingGreener website. I think it is an absolutely fantastic website and I am very, very confident that it will be much used by Australians who want to take practical action to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and now they have the opportunity to know the best ways that they can do that.

Okay, happy to take any questions.

JOURNALIST: How easy is it for people to make their homes more sustainable?

GARRETT: Look it is easy for people to make their homes more sustainable with simple, practical actions. Things like draught proofing, things like looking at double glazing, making a couple of really big, good choices. Ceiling insulation — the Government has a very effective home owner insulation rebate that is in place and we are seeing strong demand for that. Looking at their choice of hot water systems is absolutely critical. Solar hot water — a fantastic way to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions given that about 30 per cent of the energy that is pumped out of a house goes towards providing that hot water for you. And there are a range of other things that you can do as well.

And what is great is to see the range of local products that are being manufactured and brought forward by local industries. Look, something like the solar tube. Here is a fantastic way of lighting up those dark corridors. If you are living in an old house, a house that was built in the 30's or the 40's and normally you have got a light on in the corridor when you go down to the bathroom, here is a couple of solar tubes that you can put in. They provide fantastic light and of course the light is there all year because it comes from the power of the sun.

So there are many, many practical things that people can do and LivingGreener will be a great website that enables them to find their way to those practical actions.

JOURNALIST: What do you hope will be the ultimate result of people having a look through these houses?

GARRETT: I really think that we're on the cusp of a major revolution in the way we think about housing in Australia, the way we renovate our homes and the way in which we make our homes much more climate friendly. And the fact is that there are so many good opportunities that we have as Australians to take advantage of our climate, to use solar energy more significantly, to insulate our homes better, to weather proof them better, and what we know on the uptake of the Government's home owner insulation plan is that Australians have a real appetite to make their houses better, more effective in terms of energy use and more effective in terms of reducing their energy costs too. Because the beaut thing about having a climate friendly house is that it is good for the environment and it is good for your pocket.

JOURNALIST: You mentioned the insulation rebate before, do you think that plan wasn't thought through well enough and we have seen how many dodgy operators are rorting the scheme?

GARRETT: Look this program has had a phenomenal uptake since the Government announced it through the fiscal stimulus package. We have a got a very small number of complaints coming into this program and I want to make it clear again that the Government takes a very dim view of anybody that tries to rort any Government program and especially, from my perspective anyone, any installer or anyone, who is trying to rort the ceiling insulation rebate program.

We have a register of installers and I have said to installers already that the expectation is that the guidelines that are in place should be followed. We do have a robust monitoring and auditing program underway and we are communicating not only with the installers themselves but also with those householders who have already received the ceiling insulation rebate to make sure that any issues that they encountered when they had their insulation installed in their ceilings are dealt with properly.

So we have got about 2 — 0.2 per cent — in terms of complaints about this program. We will pursue each and every one of them vigorously. I think my expectation is that the majority of the industry are doing the right thing and want to do the right thing and we will make absolutely sure that the monitoring of this program identifies any practices that might be rorting and deals with them straight away.

JOURNALIST: Do you think though that a lot of people might not realise that the batts haven't been installed properly? You know, we are hearing of cases where the batts are still left in their wrappers and just popped up in ceilings and left there and it is until the homeowner actually goes up and has a look and sees how this has been installed that they only realise there is a problem. Do you think a lot of people haven't come forward because they simply don't know that there has been a problem?

GARRETT: Well what I would say is that it is important for any householder who takes a quotation from an installer to install ceiling insulation in their roof to make sure and satisfy themselves that the job has been done properly. That is important. And if there are any issues that arise there are fair trading institutions in each of the states and also my Department who will follow up straight away if there are any questions there. And installers know that they come onto the register to ensure that the installation is done in a way which is proper. So of course, I think people should check to make sure that the job is done well just as you would for any other job that is done in your house. But we will pursue any instances where we believe that the program is not being delivered properly by the installers. And remember, I have already previously announced that I have written to all of those people who have received that rebate up to now to see from Australians whether they have actually been satisfied with what they have been delivered by installers and we're writing to installers on that matter. We also have audits and assessments being undertaken now and we'll continue to be very, very diligent in making sure this program is properly delivered.

JOURNALIST: What is your message to dodgy operators who are trying to rort the system?

GARRETT: Anyone who tries to rort this ceiling insulation system is both letting down Australians and opening themselves up to the possibility of being struck off the register and they won't have any opportunity to conduct business as far as this Government is concerned.

JOURNALIST: On another topic there have been some environmental issues raised about the gas contract to China. Will there be any consideration or processes to be followed before that is signed off on in an environmental sense?

GARRETT: Well the next stage in the Gorgon approvals process is for me to consider the advice that has come through both from my Department and also from the West Australian Minister who has already signed off on this project and identified a number of conditions relating to the environment.

I will look very closely at that advice. I will consider it in the context of the national environment legislation and I will make a decision in the coming week about that.

JOURNALIST: Considering the fanfare over the project though you would be under huge pressure to make sure it does go through?

GARRETT: Look I am under no pressure whatsoever in relation to this project other than to do my job as a regulator properly. The fact is that in the instance of Gorgon, this is a matter that has already been significantly considered by West Australia and Commonwealth officials in the past. Of the issues that are relevant under national environment legislation, it is a confined list. But I want to be absolutely sure that all of the matters in front of me have been thoroughly considered and that if there are going to be conditions that apply to this project that they are conditions that ensure that matters of national environment significance are properly protected and I will do that in proper time.

JOURNALIST: What time though?

GARRETT: Well I expect to make a decision in the next week but again I will take the time to go through all of the material in front of me very carefully. Remember, environment ministers under the previous government made mistakes in their assessments of projects which meant that decisions had to be remade. That was expensive for the Commonwealth, it was expensive for the proponents and it is expensive for the community. I make decisions having thoroughly and properly considered all of the issues that are in front of me in the time that is necessary for me to make decisions and that will be the case with Gorgon.

Thanks everybody.

[ENDS]

Commonwealth of Australia