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

Government's Home Insulation Program

E&OE transcript
Interview wiht Ray Hadley, 2GB Mornings
2 December 2009

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HADLEY: Across Australia, they're being dumped. Several weeks ago, the Federal Government and the Minister promised to name and shame the dodgy installation installers who've been rorting the system. The list was going to be released yesterday, but it's yet to appear on the Department of Environment's website.

At the moment the site says a list of installers who've been deregistered from a home installation program will be available shortly. It's the latest in a string of let downs from this government.

There have been endless promises to crack down on the dodgy installers. We have sent the Department of Environment evidence of companies like one called the House Doctor ripping off taxpayers, but nothing seems to happen.

The House Doctor is merely one of hundreds running huge advertising campaigns in regional areas, now, with callers reporting the companies utes piled high with batts as recently as yesterday.

Three people have died, including as you know two Friday's ago a 19 year old who was sent into a roof as temperatures in western Sydney soared into the mid-40s.

Peter Garrett's on the line. Minister, good morning.

GARRETT: Good morning Ray.

HADLEY: Why haven't we got the list of rorters available to us, even the 120 as opposed to the original 100?

GARRETT: A list of deregistered installers will go up on the website today Ray. I can tell you that there will be three that we've identified whose names will be published.

We've said we'd have a name and shame register and we will have it, and this will put all installers working under this program on notice - if they break the rules, action will be taken.

They can't access payments. And now they're going to be named to protect householders. Now we've said we'd do that. We're doing it today.

Every single measure that has been identified as necessary to make this program rigorous and robust, both in terms of compliance, and in terms of safety, I've put in place. I absolutely stand by every action I've made in relation to this program.

I know you're very critical of it.

But each time…

HADLEY: With good reason Minister. With good reason.

GARRETT: Ray, just let me deal with it just quickly. Each time that I've received advice on whether there are opportunities for us to increase the compliance, to take swift and tough action, to make sure that we've got training in place which is ahead of where the national training has ever been, then we've done it.

And today again we'll be naming and shaming, and those names will be up on the register.

HADLEY: Okay. Why won't you publish the details of the 100 companies deregistered since the program started? Because I've got a stack of listeners out there, Australia wide, who want to know whether the people that have installed their batts are on that list which you won't publish.

GARRETT: Well Ray the original guidelines didn't provide for people who were installers at that time to be named and shamed. We amended the guidelines to enable that to happen. That meant that anyone that is now installed on the register will be subject to the name and shame.

Those who were deregistered won't, but it doesn't mean that any of the compliance issues, any issues of dodgy behaviour in relation to them won't be followed up.

Each and every one will. Each and every one is…

HADLEY: But how do the public know, Minister, that they dealt with a dodgy installer if you won't name them and shame - and please. I mean, you're a very intelligent man. You know that if you wanted to, if you had the will, you could put them on the list today. It - there's nothing about legislation.

If you've deregistered them, there's nothing preventing you from putting the names on the website.

GARRETT: Ray, the very strong advice to me is in relation to the original guidelines which did not provide for the publication of the names of any installers who were deregistered, that if in fact they were - and they are now no longer a registered installer - I am not in a position to name and shame. I bought naming and shaming in to deal with the issues of making sure that those who are doing the wrong thing are named and shamed. In relation to those of the past, the ones that you're talking about, each and every instance of their behaviour, any complaint that's been received in relation to them will be followed up, will be…

HADLEY: But what about all the people who don't know who they are who didn't complain who made - elderly people who can't climb up onto the roof.

And who gave you the advice? What advice did you get from who?

GARRETT: Well clearly the advice comes from the Department of Environment.

There's two things to say here very…

HADLEY: Yeah, but hang on, who… I've got QC's telling me that you can name them. You need to identify who gave the advice.

GARRETT: Well the advice comes from my department, Ray, as it does to any minister - but here's the point.

HADLEY: But from whom?

GARRETT: But here's the additional… from the department that is responsible for this particular program.

HADLEY: But what - on what basis do they say you can't name them?

What - are they worried you'll get sued by some shonky bloke who's got a $2 company who disgraced himself and his company by installing batts incorrectly and dudding the public. Are they scared of them?

GARRETT: Well - give me a chance to respond to your remarks here. The first thing is, and I've said it before, of the previous deregistrations, they weren't all necessarily for dodgy behaviour - there were a whole series of instances of installers who had other breaches of the guidelines of one kind or another. Non compliance issues like, for example, not having any insurance.

And in relation to each of those instances, we have always said and we continue to deliver on this, that all of the complaints, all of the issues that arise out of the program will be robustly and thoroughly pursued.

My expectation is that we will have additional naming and shaming as a consequence of the decision that I took to both have a name and shame register, and also to have a pre-installation audit and risk assessment which will be compulsory for all installers.

I also fully expect, and I've got to say this to the installers who are listening, that they must observe not only the requirements under the guidelines, but they must make sure that they observe the appropriate state, safety, occupational and health safety requirements.

They have obligations to their workers as well, just as they have obligations to people in households to conduct their businesses properly.

We're going to increase the training. We now have a nationally-accredited training scheme. We never had that before in this program. We're now going to increase the training component so that it will be mandatory for all persons who were involved in installations to make sure that they have minimum skill standards or formal training.

That takes us way beyond the occupational health and safety induction training, and I've got good feedback from the industry as you may have seen the releases yesterday, Ray, from ICANZ and from others saying that measures that the minister is putting in place are appropriate and proper.

We think that the industry is a good industry. I want to deal with those few bad apples - and I'll make sure that I do.

HADLEY: What did you do with the company where the 19 year old was sent into a roof with no supervision in 45 degree temperatures in western Sydney, two Fridays ago, subsequently died?

What have you done with that company?

GARRETT: Well I want to talk about all of those deaths because they are tragic incidences. In relation to that particular matter, it is still under investigation.

HADLEY: Is that company still working today?

GARRETT: It's not appropriate for me to make any further comments in relation to that investigation until that investigation is concluded, and until I have advice in front of me, I don't propose to say anything else about that matter.

HADLEY: Two deaths.

GARRETT: There were [indistinct] deaths and the second death of a gentleman in Rockhampton.

HADLEY: Yeah, he was 16. He was a boy.

GARRETT: Well I appreciate that and I think that there are extremely important issues around duty of care in relation to this. You may have seen me on the 7.30 Report as well. No one Ray, no one listening to this should think that the issue of someone losing their life under any circumstances in relation to any activity isn't something that I treat with the utmost seriousness; I do.

HADLEY: Well if you did you'd stop this company installing batts as of today.

GARRETT: Well, I want to know, once this formal investigation is concluded and I have advice in front of me, what are the appropriate measures that should be taking place in relation to this company or any other in an incident as serious as this. And I will do that.

I did it in relation to the matter of the death in Queensland. We made sure that metal fasteners were banned. In relation to the second regrettable death and the tragic death in Rockhampton, the preliminary report there shows us that there was a pre-existing fault which no one could have seen and which no one could have taken account to.

Now I need to make my decisions on the basis of information that comes to me that's properly put together, that's thorough and appropriate.

HADLEY: If it had been an electrician as opposed to a 16 year old school boy we probably would have had a different result.

GARRETT: Well Ray…

HADLEY: So it's no good saying it's unavoidable. If it hadn't have been a 16 year old kid and it had of been a licensed electrician inspecting the house before the installation of the batts, we would have had a different result. It was avoidable.

GARRETT: Well in relation - I'm referring to the preliminary report that we've received on that regrettable incident in Rockhampton. But Ray I take safety very, very seriously. Remember that there are Occupational Health and Safety requirements for any employer and the expectation from the public, from you, from me, from state government, from Fair Trading, is that they are observed.

We will do everything that we need to do to make sure that we identify those who are not properly following our strengthened guidelines. We will make sure that there is sufficient and adequate training for each and every person that goes in those rooves.

We still have a relatively low number of complaints on a relatively very, very successful program but I don't make any apologies for providing some inconvenience for those businesses who may not be doing the right thing. If it goes beyond standard practice in other industries which it now will Ray by the way, then that's where we're going. Safety's an absolute priority for me. I can't repeat it often enough.

HADLEY: Okay, okay. You would know if you listen to radio, read the newspapers, and there's no doubt you do that we've got people door knocking people, many of them backpackers, students, immigrants, mainly Indians, going to people's door and installing batts on the very same night and getting old ladies to sign pieces of paper and say we don't need to measure it, it's $1600 and this is wide spread, it's wide spread. Those companies you deregistered, did you go to them and ask for the money back that they got, they'd stolen from the Australian public?

GARRETT: Well the deregistration means that they're not in a position to be able to participate in the program…

HADLEY: But they keep the money they stole from us originally.

GARRETT: Well hang on, hang on, just let me answer the question. The deregistration means that they are unable to conduct their business any longer. If there are instances where there has been either unethical, dodgy, or illegal behaviour in relation to an installation, we will work with parties who are involved. If there are householders who are involved, if there are people who have suffered loss or whose rights have been breached in some way with fair trading to ensure that their consumer rights are properly observed and are delivered.

We're not going to, in any way, tolerate anybody operating through this program in such a away that they don't put insulation in the ceiling safely, that it is an insulation that will do the job, and the people don't get the value for money that we expect out of the program.

HADLEY: Okay. Look, there's a case in point okay, that I'll take you through very quickly and I'll also send you the emails and the photographs. A lady was called upon in Frenchs Forest on Monday night, by an Indian gentlemen saying we can put batts in now. Her husband was out. She stupidly signed the documentation. She's the case in point where they said we don't need to measure it because it's $1200 free from the Government but it will cost you $400 for us to remove the batts from your house.

The organisation is called Silver Insulation. They striped all the insulation out of the home, they left the insulation - the used insulation on her front porch, I have a photograph of that, and then they dumped it at the back of the local Forestway Supermarket. I have photos of it dumped on the website proving it's the same insulation from her home that was dumped.

Now surely to goodness, if and you are, I believe to be, someone who's sincere about the environment. We've been inundated with calls, you heard from Peter at Wagga Wagga, used batts dumped in bush land creeks and now at the back of the Frenchs Forest Shopping Centre and I can give you list after list after list including this one, this is only one of hundreds of Silver Installation let alone the fact they can't tie down the new batts on their damn trucks and they're incapable of tying knots so how they are capable of putting it in the roof I'm buggered if I know.

But what are you going to do if I give you solid proof that a mob called Silver Installation dumped used batts in a shopping centre on Monday night of this week?

GARRETT: Well Ray, every single incident under this program, as you know, because you've made reference and your program have made reference to a number of them over time and a number of them are under investigation now, will be thoroughly and properly investigated.

There's - that's basically the bottom line in all of this and it's always been the case. I've actually ordered that the audit and compliance program move more stringently and more quickly now because we do have a number of complaints coming through the system. They are still a minority of complaints. These are the bad apples in the fruit bowl. But each and every particular complaint in relation to these matters will be dealt with.

Now in relation to installers who are dumping things: there are state laws that refer to illegal dumping. You know that. If anyone thinks that someone is doing the wrong thing then I expect the book to be thrown at them by the relevant authorities; ring the appropriate hotlines. They can let us know and we can advise the state authorities.

I mean I cannot say anything other than the following; we will and we already have and we will continue to have the most stringent monitoring and compliance regime in relation to this program.

HADLEY: Okay.

GARRETT: It's a very successful program; it's a very popular program. And it's a program that [indistinct]…

HADLEY: Oh it's popular all right. There's lying - people are going to be millionaires out of this I can tell you.

GARRETT: Well…

HADLEY: It's very popular.

GARRETT: Well…

HADLEY: There'll be people building Mcmansions on the back of this.

GARRETT: Well Ray let's just quickly…

HADLEY: Hope they're insulated.

GARRETT: Yeah, let's just quickly duck back into history. It was a $1600 rebate and it was specifically intended at a period of time when we were facing significant and difficult global financial crisis.

HADLEY: Yeah, I appreciate that.

GARRETT: I adjusted that rebate to $1200 and you know what we're seeing? We are seeing a continual roll out of the program and frankly apart from the bad apples it's an orderly roll out of this program.

HADLEY: All right. I've got to go there Minister, I've got to go to a break and then the news. I appreciate your time.

GARRETT: Well we've employed a lot of Australians at this rate and I think we'll get the job done.

HADLEY: Well I hope so. I hope so.

[ENDS]

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