House debates

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Prime Minister

Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders

3:01 pm

Photo of Tony AbbottTony Abbott (Warringah, Liberal Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | Hansard source

Why bother about dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, as the shadow minister for finance said, when all you have got to do is get the money out of the door? The direct consequences of getting the money out of the door in a program that was completely maladministered and effectively unregulated is that four Australians have died. That is the truth.

The minister says, ‘It’s all the fault of the shonks.’ I say to the minister there were always going to be shonks in a program like this. As the minister for finance has admitted, that was built into the program. They expected shonks out there and they did not care about the undotted i’s and the uncrossed t’s. The environment minister was warned not once, not twice but repeatedly. He was warned on at least 13 separate occasions and he took no effective action. The first specific warning was back on 9 March last year, when the authoritative body, the national electrical association, warned of the inherent dangers. So concerned by this warning was this minister that it took seven weeks for these reputable and concerned experts to get even a pro-forma, fob-off departmental reply, promising of course that they were going to be consulted. But they then heard absolutely nothing.

Then in October there is the first death. The first death comes in October because the minister has failed to heed that warning. On 16 October the master electricians association calls for the suspension of this program—no training programs, no issuing of new guidelines and standards, but the suspension of this program because there was the risk that it would kill people. So what does the minister do? On 1 November he bans metal clips. The warnings kept coming and the deaths kept coming. He gets a warning on 26 November, a press release from the national electrical association. We have raised, this press release says:

… concerns of the risk of serious injury, death or house fires …

We have warned, this press release says:

… governments and consumers on a number of occasions in recent months of the dangers associated with installing insulation in roof cavities where cabling is present.

Listen to this, Mr Speaker:

The recent Federal Government stimulus package measures have exacerbated these problems without the establishment of adequate enforceable inspection safety measures and placed home owners and occupiers in serious danger.

This is what this minister has failed to do: he has failed to protect installers and home occupiers from serious danger.

After that public warning there were three more deaths. Three months went past before finally he took action to suspend the foil insulation program. It is just not good enough. As a result of this minister’s incompetence 37,000 houses have had this foil insulation installed and over 1,000 of them, according to his own departmental audit, are now electrified. We have live houses, houses that are a potential risk to their occupiers because of the ineptitude of this minister, and he thinks none of this is his fault. If he was a company director in New South Wales he would be charged with industrial manslaughter. That is the truth.

The Prime Minister obviously does not want to lose this minister. He does not want to lose this minister after a very bad fortnight. I can understand why he does not want to lose this minister. But it shows a complete lack of any sense of proportion that he is standing by this minister, who has presided over four deaths. Instead of talking about this minister he would rather talk about Senator Barnaby Joyce. I have to say, Barnaby Joyce has not been responsible for programs that have killed people. That is the truth. That is why this minister must go. He might give doorstop interviews outside church, but this Prime Minister has completely lost any sense of values. This minister deserves to go and the Prime Minister should censor him. (Time expired)


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