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Wednesday, 24 February 2010
Page: 1724


Mr ABBOTT (3:03 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Now that the Prime Minister has accepted responsibility for the home insulation scandal, will the government compensate businesses involved in the scheme that have lost tens of thousands or perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result of relying on his government’s word?


Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question. As the Leader of the Opposition would be aware, when the government announced the cancellation of the program last Friday the minister in his statement indicated that the government would be prepared to provide—or to consider providing—transitional assistance to affected firms. The second point I would say in response to the Leader of the Opposition is that the government accepts fully the direct consequences which flow from its decision on the firms out there in the economy producing these services and in some cases manufacturing the goods as well. Therefore, the challenge for us is to work through the detail of transitional assistance as it would most appropriately apply to firms in different circumstances. I am advised by the minister that he will be meeting with representatives of the industry in the immediate period. I understand further that representatives of the industry whom I met earlier today, one of whom was just now in the press gallery, will be meeting also with the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations later in the day as well.

The government, as I indicated in my answer earlier today, has indicated its preparedness to assist with workers who have been displaced by this scheme. But I would say again to the Leader of the Opposition that what industry is saying loud and clear is that they want a renewable energy bonus scheme in the future. That is what they want—continuity of work. We have cancelled this program in order to deal with the safety and security matters which have been raised, and we have indicated our intention to commence a new scheme. However, those opposite, when talking about the interests of businesses or of workers, have to reflect upon what the shadow Treasurer said only today when he refused to provide any level of bipartisan support for such a future scheme. That goes to the heart of the provision of future employment and it goes to the heart of the future work for firms concerned. I say to those opposite that, if they are going to express concerns for businesses and for workers, at least their position on this should be consistent.