House debates

Monday, 22 February 2010

Questions without Notice

Home Insulation Program

2:05 pm

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

My question is to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts. I refer the minister to the Minter Ellison report, first received on 9 April last year, and to admissions by officials in Senate hearings today that he received weekly safety updates from the secretary of his department to the 20 warnings from union, industry and state officials since the inception of his now scrapped home insulation scheme.

On behalf of the 240,000 households with either unsafe or substandard installation, the 1,000 households left with potentially deadly electrified roofs and the four families of the young men who have tragically lost their lives, I ask: when did the minister first receive elements of the Minter Ellison report, and what action did he take to address the serious concerns that this report raised?

Photo of Peter GarrettPeter Garrett (Kingsford Smith, Australian Labor Party, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question because it allows me to continue to advise the House on those measures and actions that were taken by me and the government in relation to the Home Insulation Program. I can advise the House that the Minter Ellison report and the risk assessment processes that the government undertook at the time produced a set of advices to me in relation to this program and informed the establishment of the guidelines under this program, the nationally accredited training model under this program and a set of additional measures that were delivered to ensure that we had safety, effective delivery and adequate training in relation to this program.

I caution the Leader of the Opposition against extrapolating from interim results of audit and risk management to produce in the community an apprehension that each and every ceiling is of an order to be identified as having a specific risk. As the secretary of the department made clear in her statement on Friday and as I have made clear in my statements subsequently, the totality of the advice that has come to me includes the consideration that the department has had not only of Minter Ellison reports but of other material and consultations with stakeholders, industry, training bodies and the like, and they are the matters upon which I took advice and acted in this program.

Mr Speaker, I add through you to the Leader of the Opposition that I have additionally announced further details today in relation to both safety inspections and rectification work relating to the termination of the Home Insulation Program. We have said we will expand the:

… targeted, risk based audit and inspection program to 15 per cent of homes with non-foil insulation installed under Home Insulation Program which may have safety risks. This risk based audit will be extended further, if necessary, to any segments of households deemed at risk.

That is the commitment that the government has made today. We stand by that commitment and we will deliver the new program, the Renewable Energy Bonus Scheme, in that manner.