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

Suspension of foil from the Home Insulation Program

Transcript
Interview with Murray Wilton and Murray Olds
2UE Drive Show
9 February 2010

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COMPERE: Now as you and I both know we've taken literally scores of calls on this program from people in the last couple or three weeks - from people who've been very, very unhappy with elements of the insulation installation they've had done under the Federal Government's rebate scheme.

Today the Master Electricians of Australia up in Queensland, I spoke to the guy today, he is demanding that all 37,000 homes that have been insulated with the foil insulation, Master Electricians are saying they must be audited for safety, 37,000 homes.

Malcolm Richards says based on safety audits carried out so far there could be as many as 460 potentially deadly, live roofs. Four installers have died, three of them in Queensland from electrocution.

Well today the Environment Minister, Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett, has suspended the installation of this particular metallic-lined insulation under the Government's rebate scheme. And we thought we'd find out why. Peter Garrett good afternoon to you.

GARRETT: G'day, Murray.

COMPERE: Thanks for your time, Minister. Why are you acting now?

GARRETT: I'm acting now because in November of last year following advice from both my department and also the industry itself I banned metal fasteners in the installation of foil insulation. It mainly happens in Queensland.

COMPERE: Yeah.

GARRETT: And that was on the basis that if metal fasteners were used in insulation then they could regrettably and tragically have provided a fatality in relation to someone installing insulation in the roof, in fact more than one fatality.

So I took the advice on what was the right step for us to take. We came up with two specific actions; banning the metal fasteners and then targeting a safety program specifically in Queensland to look at 10 per cent of the roofs where the foil insulation had been put in. We're now starting to get the results back from that 10 per cent audit.

They're early results but they show that a small number, some five out of the 400 that have been looked at up to this point in time and advice provided for me show conductivity. I think that's too many, and so I've suspended foil being included in the program until such time as we work our way through the rest of that targeted audit of all of those foil insulations, have the discussions with the Queensland Safety Authorities, the Government, the industry and others and see whether we need additional safety measures in the program.

COMPERE: Minister could I ask you, what is happening with the inspectors? We had a gentleman ring us the other day on air who was an inspector for all this roof insulation, and have a listen to what he just

GRAB PLAYBACK: Well used to be, mate they pulled the plug on us last week, just out of the blue, bang just like that. And then when they initially had all the hoohah the last couple of months and Peter Garrett turned around and said yes we're goign to get some people out there to inspect them, make sure it's done. As soon as the dust settles he's pulled the plug on it.

COMPERE: So there's six people that he knows of in his business that have lost their jobs because the pin was pulled.

GARRETT: The inspections are continuing, we've done over 14,000 physical inspections.

I don't know this particular case. In relation to this particular case, Murray if he wants to make a formal complaint to me or to the Department I'll certainly look at it, but the commitment we made to inspect ceilings continues. The auditors are still doing that inspection job. We've had 14,000 that have already been undertaken up to now. We're also calling all of the householders and installers with issues that have come to us in respect of compliance, plus we're writing to people once the issue's been raised with us just to check that it's been properly resolved.

COMPERE: Are you and the Government more broadly, are you satisfied with the quality of the work, Peter Garrett, that's been carried out across the country, not just in Queensland, also in New South Wales, right across the country, and about the qualifications of some of these cowboys who are out there? Because I'm telling you we've had dozens of calls about cowboys, they're rounding them up in pubs, in hostels, they're getting Irish backpackers, 'do you want to make a few hundred bucks, come along with me we'll jam some batts in the roof?'

GARRETT: Well look two things to say to that, Murray. The first is that under the guidelines of the program, and it's been a big program and you guys have taken a big interest in it and you're playing a good role in letting us know when people are doing the wrong thing, but under the guidelines of the program, including the measures that I've put in place since the program started, if installers follow the guidelines in the program and act properly and lawfully I am confident that the work that is done will be done properly. I'm also confident that the Australian standards apply to the material that's included in the program.

Now I do know that there are small numbers of unscrupulous operators. In any instance where there is someone who is basically trying to rort this program I want to know about it and action will be taken in respect of them. This is a massive program, the amount of non-compliance that we have where it exists is small, but each and every bit of non-compliance is important to me.

COMPERE: Look I don't think anybody's going to argue with you that it's not a good idea, insulating your home is a fantastic idea and it's a wonderful initiative, but we've got a guy that works here that went back to his home the other night, block of units, there were three blokes there that couldn't speak a word of English had popped over the mancover, they're shoving batts up into the roof. He couldn't find out where they worked, who their boss was, they had no paperwork. He didn't sign anything, the body corporate didn't know anything about it.

GARRETT: Murray you're absolutely right...

COMPERE: So how do these guys get their money? Are they putting dodgy claims through to the Federal Government and you guys are stamping it?

GARRETT: Well let's just go back one step. I mean if anyone has somebody knocking on their door and saying that they are going to do one thing or the other in relation to this program, they've got some consumer rights that they need to exercise. And I think it's really important to remind people that there are some important things that they can do as well as the ones we're doing.

You need to check on the insulation company, that's why we've got a register provider, I've spoken to other people on your programs about this before, we've got a name and shame register there. You need to find out whether these people are qualified, you need to make sure that your rights and responsibilities under the program are insisted upon. Go onto the website, go onto the hotline. And I do say to people, I really encourage them, don't sign the work order form until the work's been completed.

COMPERE: But if they don't sign the work order form, which a lot of people rang us last week and said never signed anything, how are they getting their money?

GARRETT: Well any instance of non-compliance or breaching of the guidelines by anybody in relation to this program, including any shonky installers, will be dealt with by the Department.

Now there's a number of things that we're doing. There's suspension of particular installers under the program. We've had over 100 - 130 already de-registered, another 17 since December. We've got 400 who voluntarily opted out. We've got public naming and shaming. Additionally if we receive a complaint which, when it's investigated properly, shows that there's been a breach of the law then we will ensure that it's reported to the appropriate authorities including to follow up for legal action.

I mean once we establish the details of any company doing the wrong thing they are immediately contacted, they have to show cause as to why they shouldn't be de-registered.

And I urge people who've got concerns about installers doing the wrong thing at any property, whether it's a private property or the example you've just given me, come onto the hotline 1800 808 571, let the department know and I will make sure, as I've already issued that instruction that all of these issues are followed up.

COMPERE: Our guest the Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett. Peter you mentioned it's a massive scheme, but it's open to massive rorting. We had a I suppose an older woman call us and she made enquiries to see whether or not she'd qualify to have pink batts installed in the roof, she was told well sorry, ma'am your home's already been done.

Now clearly someone's claimed her address as having a job been done there, and she hasn't.

GARRETT: I find it really, really unpalatable to know that there are a small number of operators, dodgy operators or others out there either trying to take advantage of people through this program or in any other area by the same token, Murray I've got to say.

COMPERE: Man you ought to sit in here with us when we take the calls.

GARRETT: I know you get those complaints...

COMPERE: We're inundated.

GARRETT: ...[indistinct] come through to us they're followed up on. But just remember we banned metal fasteners, we've got mandatory installation for downlight covers and we targeted the safety program in November. We've got the name and shame list, the requirement for two quotes. And this is really important, it's mandatory under the program for a formal risk assessment to be undertaken in relation to this.

I've now got the safety and accreditation levels on this program higher than they have ever been, we've got nationally accredited training. We never had that before. And we're ahead of the Building Code of Australia and the Australian Standards.

Now we will continue to be really vigorous in compliance, but I urge people also, especially the ones who are listening to this program, make sure you know your rights and responsibilities on the program. Check that that insulation company is actually on the register, that it hasn't been named and shamed. Have a look at the guidelines and make sure that the job is done properly.

COMPERE: And have a look at the guys who turn up knocking on the door.

One final one. Who's paying for the audits of the metal insulation? I mean are the householders who've got this now in their roofs, are they being obliged to pay for it or it will be covered...

GARRETT: The 10 per cent of targeted safety audits that we're doing in Queensland, Murray is a part of the auditing program it's a part of the roll out of this program.

COMPERE: Okay so - and it doesn't' apply in New South Wales at all?

GARRETT: Not at this point in time, we went for the Queensland foil insulation because the greater majority of foil under the program is actually installed in Queensland.

COMPERE: Okay. And that number 1800 808 571.

GARRETT: That's the one.

COMPERE: Thanks for your time.

GARRETT: Thanks, gentlemen.

COMPERE: All the best. Peter Garrett, Federal Environment Minister

There you go, we've been looking to speak to the minister about this. I'm not sure he's going to have satisfied every concern that's out there, Murray to be quite frank.

[ENDS]

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