A catalogue of failure confirmed by Senator Wong today has underlined the need for a Senate inquiry into the Government’s bungled Green Loans program, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Action Simon Birmingham said today.
Shortly after the Senate agreed this afternoon to establish an inquiry into Green Loans*, Senator Wong used a Ministerial statement to detail the many failings of the program, newly her responsibility after being stripped from Minister Garrett.
“It is clear there are thousands of Australians misled into seeking accreditation as assessors, and many more thousands of households shut out of obtaining loans after going to the trouble of getting an assessment,” Senator Birmingham said.
“This inquiry is needed both to give these adversely affected Australians a voice, and to get to the bottom of how a program could be so badly mismanaged.
“Failings confirmed by Senator Wong today include that the Government:
  • promised the appointment of 1,000 home sustainability assessors, but has trained 9,300, signed contracts with 4,000 and plans to sign up another 1,000, leaving 4,300 in a state of limbo
  • has overseen the completion of 210,864 home sustainability assessments, but returned just 84,000 to households, with 100,000 assessments languishing in the department, waiting to be returned to homeowners
  • established a highly complex system that has seen 50% of invoices received from assessors incomplete or invalid
  • promised a $50 Green Rewards Card for each completed assessment but, to date, has distributed none
  • promised that Green Loans would still be available until 22 March, but has failed to reveal that all bar one financial institution (which only services Alcoa employees) are no longer accepting applications
“All of the words in the Minister’s statement will be of cold comfort to the thousands of out of pocket assessors, tens of thousands of disillusioned homeowners and millions of taxpayers who have seen their money so poorly wasted. 
“The Minister’s words will be of cold comfort, because they contain many reviews, but no action.
“Minister Wong should immediately:
  • explain what support will be available for all 9,300 trained assessors, not just the Government’s handpicked few
  • apologise to the 100,000 plus homeowners who in good faith had assessments undertaken to access a Green Loan, but now find they cannot
  • instigate an independent, public evaluation program into the environmental benefits of continued assessments to ensure taxpayers are getting some return for their $150 million plus investment
“I look forward to the Senate inquiry established today fully exploring the issues surrounding this complete debacle of a program, as well as hopefully providing some comfort and finding a way forward for the many Australians hurting as a result.”
*Senator Birmingham’s motion, on behalf of the Coalition, passed by the Senate today:
That the following matters be referred to the Environment, Communications and the Arts References Committee for inquiry and report by 21 June 2010:
(a) The Federal Government’s Green Loans program, with particular reference to:
                     i.        the administration of the program from a pricing, probity and efficiency perspective, including:
A.   the basis on which the Government determined the amounts of the loan to be made available and Government subsidy thereof;
B.   regulation of Home Sustainability Assessment practices, including the promotion of Assessments;
C.   accreditation of Home Sustainability Assessors;
D.   ensuring value for money for taxpayers;
E.    waste, inefficiency and mismanagement within the program;
F.    ensuring the program achieves its stated aims of improving water and energy efficiency; and
G.   the consultation and advice received from financial institutions regarding their participation.
                    ii.        an examination of:
A.   employment and investment in home sustainability assessments resulting from the program, including that resulting from Government statements regarding the number of accredited assessors;
B.   the effectiveness of the booking system;
C.   the effectiveness and timeliness of Home Sustainability Assessment reports being provided;
D.   the early reduction by the Government in the number of Green Loans to be offered, and subsequent discontinuation of the Loans, including by financial institutions in advance of the Government’s announced date of discontinuation;
E.    homeowner actions for which Green Loans have been sought and approved;
F.    the level of evaluation of homeowner action following any Home Sustainability Assessment;
G.   what advice was provided to the Government on the feasibility and effectiveness of the Green Loans program, including to what degree the Government acted on this advice;
                   iii.        an analysis of the effectiveness of the program as a means to improve the water and energy efficiency of homes, including comparison with alternative policy measures;
(b)  Consideration of measures to reduce or eliminate waste and mismanagement, and to ensure value for money for the remainder of the program, noting the commitment of funding for an additional 600,000 free Home Sustainability Assessments despite the discontinuation of the loans.
(c)    Other related matters.