Thursday, 11 February 2010
Questions without Notice
Home Insulation Program
My question is to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts. I refer the minister to the audit conducted by his own department that has found a real danger of electrocution exists right now in potentially a thousand family homes across Australia and the minister’s announcement yesterday that in response he would be setting up a hotline and writing to all homes at risk. I also refer to the warning yesterday from Master Electricians Australia spokesman Mr Paul Daly:
Do not go into your ceiling space for any reason. Unfortunately, householders may die.
Given that Mr Daly understands the immediacy of the danger, why did the minister delay taking action despite repeated warnings since as early as March last year, putting households and workers at serious risk?
I thank the honourable member for his question. As he knows, in the statement that I brought forward to the House prior to question time these matters were canvassed in some detail. I will add to that statement by saying the following. The requirements for the safe installation of insulation were always a key component of the rollout of this program. They are a component that exists within state regulations as well. They are a component that exists within occupational health and safety requirements, which are compulsory under the Home Insulation Program.
It is also the case that, of the range of issues that were identified, safety issues and otherwise, in the early processes of consultation with my department and relevant authorities, all of those matters were taken into account and a training module brought forward which would deal with it satisfactorily. Additionally, in relation to the matter concerning foil insulation, I repeat what I said in my statement to the House and I add that it was only as a consequence of my decision to ban metal fasteners that the necessary step was taken to ensure that, where installers breached the existing guidelines under the program, they would not in any way, by virtue of their negligence, be able to place any householders at risk.
The honourable member brings the question to me about the current state of households and ceiling insulation and safety. I make the point to him that the decision I took to have a 10 per cent sample audit of ceilings with foil insulation in Queensland was as a consequence of the issues that had been raised and that that particular audit process, in its preliminary stages, has identified additional risks in ceilings that are not a consequence of the Home Insulation Program. It is the case that this particular issue, identified by me, was dealt with by me at the time on the advice that I had from my department and put the necessary safety measures in place for the rollout of the program.