VANESSA TREZISE: After more than 100,000 home inspections, the Government has revealed the threat posed by dodgy installations under its trouble plagued ‘Pink Batts’ scheme isn’t as bad as many feared. For more, we’re joined by Sky News chief political reporter David Speers and, David, is that a fair assessment?
DAVID SPEERS: Well, it’s the assessment of the various safety inspections that have taken place over the last more than a year since the program was wrapped up, Vanessa. The CSIRO report finds that the overall risk in homes insulated under this program is only two and a half homes per 100,000 that posed a fire risk. For the Opposition’s reaction to this we are joined by Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham who is the Acting Shadow Minister for Climate Action. Thanks for your time, Senator.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: A pleasure, David
DAVID SPEERS: Only two and a half homes in every 100,000 under this program had a fire risk, that’s really no more than generally before this program when it comes to ceiling insulation. Did the Opposition scaremonger about the extent of the fire risk?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, not at all. This two and a half homes figure comes after 150,000 inspections and many rectification works as well. This program has been an unmitigated disaster from day one. The Government was warned about it from day one, yet they persevered with the program that has ultimately seen the lives of installers lost, hundreds of homes damaged by fire, hundreds of businesses destroyed…
DAVID SPEERS: Well hang on, the lives lost haven’t been established yet that that was directly linked to this scheme. That’s still under investigation.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well these investigations are continuing but we do know that these were installers working on installations related to the Home Insulation Program. Now, what the exact causes are, that’ll be debated by of course coroners and others. But this had been…
DAVID SPEERS: So you can’t really judge that.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: This has been in anyone’s language, though, an unmitigated disaster. $1.7 billion all up of taxpayer funds has gone into this program and today’s data shows that 24 per cent of those homes inspected are in some way faulty. They may not be fire risks but they haven’t got what taxpayers paid to have installed in those ceilings.
DAVID SPEERS: The Government acknowledges that, yes, this was a mess, there where real problems with this but when the Opposition was warning that thousands of Australians could have potential fire traps in their rooves, do you now acknowledge that that is no longer the case?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well look, thousands Australians have dodgy insulation installed in their rooves. In some instances, sadly, they have been shown to be fire traps but in many other instances there are other problems and there are one million homes not inspected that under the Government’s plan will never be inspected and there will no doubt be many thousands of other problems in those homes and the Government seems to have no plan for how they will be rectified in the future.
DAVID SPEERS: No one has been dismissed, stood aside, sacked, it would seem, as a result of the problems in this scheme. Does that alarm you and who do you think should take ultimate responsibility?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: The buck ultimately should always have stopped with Peter Garrett in this scheme. There where clear warnings to the Government; we’ve seen massive waste of taxpayer dollars, enormous cost to the insulation industry and damage to homes for homeowners. This is a huge impact. Peter Garrett was the Cabinet Minister responsible. He ignored the warnings. He should have paid the ultimate price and he should not still be sitting around the Cabinet table.
DAVID SPEERS: Simon Birmingham, thank you.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: A pleasure, David.