SANDY ALOISI: Well, joining us now for an Opposition viewpoint is the Acting Climate Action [Shadow] Minister, Simon Birmingham, who joins us now. Senator Birmingham, good afternoon to you.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good afternoon, Sandy. Good afternoon to your listeners.
SANDY ALOISI: And what concerns, if any, do you have about this report?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Sandy, look, there are two aspects of concern. The first relates to the overall, of course, home insulation debacle and this is a very, very sorry saga and we shouldn’t forget that it’s come at an enormously high price. We’ve seen lives lost, homes destroyed, businesses and jobs destroyed and $1.7 billion of taxpayers’ money spent on this very, very wasteful program.
But the second point of concern is that, yes, the Government has conducted around 150,000 inspections but there were 1.2 million homes with this insulation installed. That means one million homes have not been inspected one million homes where the rate of problems is not known. We do know, as you just heard from Minister Combet, that 24 per cent of those inspected homes had problems some type of problems in terms of the quality of insulation or the quality of the installation of that insulation. What we don’t know is, in regards to the other one million, just how many of them have problems and the Government seems to have absolutely no plan, or indeed intention, of finding that out or working out how to rectify those problems.
SANDY ALOISI: Gee, Senator, a million homes, do you think they should all be audited?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, I think the Government should be releasing its understanding, or its estimates, of how many problems there are in those million homes and working out an ongoing process for how it will fix any problems in those million homes. Greg Combet appears to have put the onus back on installers. Well, that’s fine where the installer’s still in business but in many cases they were either ‘fly by nighters’, sadly, who set up to take advantage of this poorly structured Government program or, indeed, where they were legitimate businesses, they’ve often gone out of business since because of the damage this program did to the insulation industry. The Government seems to be closing the door on these one million home owners, some of whom will at some stage look in their ceilings and find that a very poor job was done indeed.
SANDY ALOISI: So do you think there should be an estimate done of these one million homes, because I think the logistics of inspecting all of them would be very difficult?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: There should very clearly be an estimate and the Government should come out and honestly say that if there are 24 per cent of inspected homes with problems what is the estimate of uninspected homes with problems and what is the Government’s commitment to help those home owners have those problems rectified.
SANDY ALOISI: Should we give the Government any credit for drawing a line under this scheme which clearly wasn’t working and then winding it up?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Look, the Government conceived this scheme and conceived it at a time when there were all sorts of warnings that if you put a super charge under an industry like the insulation industry you would have problems. There were warnings. They’ve been well documented along the way. Risk assessment reports highlighted potential problems and the Government ignored them at every step of the way. Taxpayers have paid a heavy price $1.7 billion all up for either the insulation scheme or the inspection program. That’s a huge cost for taxpayers and it’s just a classic example of Labor’s waste.
SANDY ALOISI: So, as far as you’re concerned, is this closure on this scheme?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, it’s not closure for the one million home owners who haven’t had an inspection. Now, there’s a limited opportunity for people to get on the phone and request an inspection by calling the hotline and I would urge people to get in touch with the Department of Climate Change and do that if they are at all worried but there will be homeowners for a long time to come who will be discovering problems with the insulation that they had installed under this Labor Government program.
SANDY ALOISI: Alright, Simon Birmingham, thank you for joining NewsRadio this afternoon.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Thank you, Sandy.