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

Energy Efficient Homes Package

E&OE Transcript
Interview with Adam Spencer, ABC 702 Sydney Breakfast
7 October 2009

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ADAM SPENCER: Now you might have had some personal experience of this, part of the Federal Government's economic stimulus package is a program that offers rebates of up to $1600 for ceiling insulation; an offer that to date more than 370,000 households have taken up at a cost of over half a billion dollars.

But as a program it's not without its critics. In fact in response to complaints about the practices of some of the contractors involved, the Government has dumped about 100 companies from the program's register. More than half of those companies based in New South Wales.

But it's a move that hasn't quite satisfied the opposition there, pushing for an investigation by the Auditor-General. Have you taken advantage of the insulation scheme? What was the quality of work down at your place? There are claims of dodgy workmanship, fraudulent invoicing, over charging et cetera. We'd love to hear from you on 1300 222 702, 1300 222 702. This scheme has occurred under the watch of the Federal Environment Minister, Peter Garrett who joins us now.

Good morning Mr Garrett.

PETER GARRETT: Morning, Adam.

ADAM SPENCER: Now over 1200 complaints have been received already; 100 companies have been deregistered, sounds like there were some people who were flouting this scheme.

PETER GARRETT: Look there has been a few that regrettably have flouted the scheme Adam, but I think if you consider that we've had 370,000 homes insulated already, we've got 1270 complaints - less than half of one per cent of the homes insulated subject to complaints - we're going very, very well. It's the largest roll out of energy efficiency we've ever seen in the country but I've said all along that we will deal particularly vigorously with anybody who breaches the guidelines which is why around 100 installers have been knocked off.

We've strengthened the monitoring and compliance regime. We will have had tens of thousands of inspections of homes in the life of the program. We've got a pricing guide in place. We're making sure that there's a physical inspection for the roof before the insulation can go in and the recent changes that we've made, I'm absolutely convinced will make it a tighter program.

We never thought that there wouldn't be a few regrettably who took advantage of a program of this scale to try and bring unethical behaviour into the market if that happens, we'll deal with it. But this is a phenomenally successful program and we're really still getting very few complaints.

ADAM SPENCER: Now the way the program works is if you get ceiling insulation put into your house you get a subsidy of up to $1600 for the work done, is that right? Is basically everyone eligible?

PETER GARRETT: Everybody's eligible who doesn't have a home which has already got the equivalent ceiling insulation in it Adam. And you go onto the environment department website. There's an installer register. We have over 7500 installers on that register and so long as your insulation comes within the $1600 figure, and you're entitled to receive the insulation, then you don't pay any money at all. The Government pays the installer directly.

ADAM SPENCER: And so what are some of the things that these installers have been struck off the list, what were some of their unacceptable practices?

PETER GARRETT: Look, there are a series of guidelines that the installers have to fulfil. They have to be properly insured. They have to install material that satisfies the Australian rating. They have to comply with the compliance requirements. I've written to everybody who's received insulation to see whether there are any issues that people have who've got it in their homes - if they've identified issues of compliance then that can come up and that can be dealt with.

We're also doing random audits as well and sometimes we're picking up installers who may have broached the guidelines in one way or another.

Look I guess the thing about this is that I know Mr Hunt is jumping up and down saying there needs to be an audit inquiry and the like; I expect the Auditor to subject this program to a performance audit and by the way I welcome it.

At the same time I can say very confidently that we've now got 370,000 homes since February who've got ceiling insulation, lower energy bills, are contributing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and we've got less than half of one per cent in terms of complaints and the complaints we're dealing with. So we'll continue to do that. But it's a very, very successful program, the largest roll out of energy efficiency in our country's history.

ADAM SPENCER: It's about six weeks ago you sent the letters. You've received 1200 complaints so far. Are you confident you've received most of those complaints or there could still be a steady stream of them coming in?

PETER GARRETT: Look I certainly accept that we will continue to have complaints - I hope they'll reduce over time because we're continuing to both educate people about what we expect in relation to the installation and also installers themselves.

We're also working closely with the industry - the Australian and New Zealand Insulation Council. They're also, with the larger installers, going through processes of making sure their installers know what's required in terms of installing the insulation.

When you think about it, this program started in February, over 370,000 homes - it is the largest energy efficiency program we've ever had. There's not doubt that we want every single installation to be one that's done properly so that people get the value for money that the Government is actually putting into this scheme. We want to stay right on top of it. We want to make sure the people do the job properly; that's why we've struck off around 100 installers and I continue to come down very, very strongly if I think people are breaching the guidelines but we've got a very compliant, strong regime in place and I expect it will do the job.

ADAM SPENCER: Okay, we'll put your position to Mr Hunt in just a second, thanks for your time Peter Garrett.


ADAM SPENCER: Peter Garrett, there the Federal Environment Minister.


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