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

Senate rejection of CPRS; Home Insulation Program

E&OE transcript
Interview with Derryn Hinch, 3AW Drive, Melbourne
2 December 2009

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HINCH: I want to move on, because I want to go back to a story that we covered some time -a few days ago, and that was about the Federal Government's subsidised scheme to get more Australians to insulate their houses with pink batts, to lower the energy costs.

I said a few days ago, I said that the scheme had backfired and sadly it backfired fatally, because last week a 16 year old worker was electrocuted while installing batts near Rockhampton. A 25 year old installer in Queensland had died last month and another man died of heat exhaustion. As I said last week, that the deaths have cast further doubts on the adequacy of training for workers for the installation, under the Government's rebate scheme, and the big issue to me seemed to be apparent lack of training for installers.

Well I had planned to talk to Peter Garrett, the Federal Minister of Environment some days ago, after raising that issue. We finally got -have got the time and got together and coming up next the Federal Minister for Environment, Peter Garrett.

Mr Garrett, good afternoon.

GARRETT: Hi Derryn.

HINCH: Well we have to talk briefly about the ETS, killed off in the Senate today. Be a big disappoint and a blow for your government?

GARRETT: Well I think the bigger issue here Derryn is that there was agreed amendments there and the national interest has gone down the tubes because of the Liberal Party under Mr Abbott's blocking action on climate change. And we are one of the hottest, we're one of the driest continents on earth. We're going to be hard hit by future climate change. There was an opportunity for the Parliament to act and it didn't happen, and that's squarely in Mr Abbott and the new Liberal Party's hands.

HINCH: The feeling though that it wasn't explained enough to the people, that's the line they are taking, how do you stand on that, because I quote Paul Keating on the GST when he says; if you don't understand it, you won't vote for it. If you do understand it, you'll never vote for it?

GARRETT: Well look, I think the thing about that is that there was extensive consultation with stakeholders. Certainly there is a lot in a CPRS. But, you know, the fact of the matter is that by the time those amendments were actually agreed with the Government and the Opposition, when Mr Turnbull was leader, each of the key issues in relation to this had been really exhaustively considered and thought through.

At the end of the day, it's really clear what the science tells us, that it's right across the board. We are going to see significant economic impacts on our communities in Victoria, on the coastline and farming communities and the like, unless we start to arrest the increase in global temperatures because of climate change. The way in which you do that, you do a number of things, but you've got to have a price in the market for carbon, and a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme's the best way of doing that, because over time it does reduce that amount that we can emit. And when it does that, there's a higher price and most people who are doing well, do well. Those who don't, have got an incentive to do better.

HINCH: Okay. Let's move onto another issue. That's the one that we -one I want to talk to you about are these -the pink batts, an attempt to conserve some energy for people. You've had three deaths in recent times from this and three insulation installers have been deregistered from the program. What are you going to do about it, because this is -I think this is a real mess?

GARRETT: You know Derryn, we have got in place absolute strict compliance on this issue. In relation to those deaths -and they are tragic incidences I know -the one in New South Wales, still under investigation. The one in Rockhampton, which I believe you have some knowledge about, I think the issue there, from what I'm advised, is that in fact there was a screw put into an electrical wire back in the 1990s sometime, and that was an issue that sort of arose before this scheme came in place. And in relation to another installer, I immediately put in place measures to ban the use of metal fasteners on the foil insulation. We've got a name and shame register which we've put in place. I've made those announcements today.

We've also increased the training requirement significantly and as well as that all installers will be required to do a risk assessment before there's any installation...

HINCH: But surely on the other 1990s case, shouldn't there be a risk assessment anyway. You're sending kids up there some of them -not you personally -into the roofs. They have no idea what's there and here was a disaster waiting to happen.

GARRETT: Well look, on that, what I can say is that existing conditions that were in place, and the requirements under the guidelines, made very clear what the skill levels were and frankly, the requirement for occupational health and safety guidelines to be properly observed by any installer, by any employer. They are a matter -they get regulated through the states, but our Commonwealth program says that they have to be observed and that's one of the conditions for actually being an installer here.

So the requirement on us is very clear about that. I'm calling on these installers to exercise the duty of care for all of their employees. I think it's absolutely critical. But we've also got additional measures in place now, to make absolutely sure that safety's a priority and that we follow through any incidences that are reported.

HINCH: All right. Sixteen year old Rueben Barnes, the young man who died in Queensland, several days after his funeral, relatives saw that same maintenance company, still with young guys up on the roofs -it's called Arrow Maintenance -they had a stop work injunction against them, they are still working. How do you stop this?

GARRETT: Well they get a show cause notice in the event that there is something as serious -and a fatality is the most serious of all. We've now got measures in place that say that there will be a suspension, but they've got to show cause as to why they should or shouldn't continue working.

In this instance we're also waiting for both the police investigation and potentially a coroner's hearing to determine what actually did happen.

Now look, it maybe in some case that isn't to do with the installation. It may be an unrelated matter. It some cases it maybe. I want to take information and action on the basis of knowing exactly what has happened. I've got to wait until the proper reporting is done. But if there are any concerns about safety, if any householder has a concern about safety, it's reported and it's considered by the department. They'll advise me if we need to take additional measures in relation to that particular matter.

HINCH: Yep. All right Mr Garrett, thanks for your time.

GARRETT: Thanks Derryn.

HINCH: Thank you, bye bye. The Minister for the Environment, that's Peter Garrett.

[ENDS]

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