From Hansard March 11, 2010 pg. 49 – 50.
Mr ABBOTT (2.50 pm)—My question is, again, to the Prime Minister. In light of the Prime Minister’s previous answer, is he seriously telling the House that he was never informed about the safety problems, fires and deaths under the Home Insulation Program? Will he now inform the House when he was so informed and who finally informed him?
Mr RUDD—I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question. In my earlier answer to his question, I outlined the government’s decision-making process leading up to the commencement of the scheme on 1 July 2009. The honourable Leader of the Opposition asked questions about subsequent safety and compliance matters which arose. Let me provide him with the following information.
On 14 August, I received a letter from the then minister in relation to the Home Insulation Program proposing increased compliance requirements for the program.
On 17 August, the relevant cabinet committee considered the compliance issues raised by the minister in his 14 August letter. The committee approved changes to the program guidelines which included requiring the following: physical site inspections prior to giving quotes, increased inspections and scrutiny of trainer qualifications, increased compliance communications and processes for suspending and deregistering non-compliant installers.
On 27 August 2009, I received a letter from the minister drawing my attention to concerns about new entrants to the market not adequately meeting required standards on work undertaken. The minister proposed changes to the program to require installers to provide physical evidence of qualifications and/or competencies before they were registered. On 28 August, I am advised, these changes to the program guidelines were released and, on 4 September, I wrote to the minister noting that these changes had been made.
On 22 October 2009, the relevant cabinet committee again considered the Home Insulation Program and discussed increasing the requirements on installers to increase compliance. On 28 October, the minister wrote to me to indicate the actions he intended to take in response. These included requiring householders to get two quotes and to publish a public list of deregistered installers. On 29 October, I responded to this letter, agreeing to the minister’s proposals to tighten the guidelines. On 30 October, Minister Garrett wrote to me in relation to safety issues in the Home Insulation Program, a proposal to roll out an electrical safety testing program for homes that have had foil insulation, a proposed ban on metal fasteners, and a proposal to mandate the use of covers over downlights and other ceiling appliances.
On 2 November 2009, I replied to the minister, noting the package of safety measures which he had outlined. On 30 November 2009, Minister Garrett announced mandatory training or minimum skill requirements would be developed further. On 17 December, Minister Garrett announced increased training requirements: all installers going into ceilings must have either a trade-specific competency, prior insulation industry experience or must have completed a registered or accredited training course. That commenced as of 12 February 2010. On 9 February 2010, Minister Garrett banned the use of foil insulation under the Home Insulation Program and, on 10 February 2010, Minister Garrett announced that every home that had foil insulation installed under the government’s Home Insulation Program would undergo an electrical safety inspection. On 19 February 2010, the relevant cabinet committee made the decision to close the program.
These are the steps which occurred during the process of decision making leading up to the commencement of the program on 1 July 2009. That, I am advised, is the correspondence between myself and the minister on this matter over the period since then.
I would also draw the honourable Leader of the Opposition’s attention to the statement made in the House yesterday by Minister Combet, the minister responsible for energy efficiency, and the measures which he has now put in place concerning the wind-up of the existing program and any guidelines which will be developed relevant to a replacement program.
In other words well before October 13, 2009 when Matthew Fuller was electrocuted. Well before November 18, 2009 when Rueben Barnes was electrocuted. Well before November 20, 2009 when Marcus Wilson died of heat exhaustion. Well before February 4, 2010 when Mitchell Sweeney was electrocuted. Safety training commenced on February 12, 2010.
What of the house fires? According to The Age insulation related house fires are up this year.
Figures given to The Age show from January to June 2009, the MFB responded to seven insulation-related roof fires. From July to December, the MFB attended 31 similar blazes.
The trend has continued into 2010, said MFB spokesman John Rees, with last night’s blaze adding to the 17 already recorded this year.