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Monday, 23 May 2011
Page: 4006

Mr VAN MANEN (Forde) (11:49): The Home Insulation Program was the lead story in the $3.9 billion Energy Efficient Homes stimulus plan. However, the government failed miserably. The Home Insulation Program ended up being a monumental waste of time and money. Not only was there enormous financial loss to many involved but there was also tragic loss of life. Yet there remain risks to home safety due to the poor quality of many insulation installations. This is the purpose of the Home Insulation Program (Commission of Inquiry) Bill.

The number of jobs created was lower than promised and the runs created did not last as long as promised. A review in 2010 found a third of the 14,000 properties surveyed appeared to have faulty or dangerous insulation, resulting in a loss of any potential environmental benefits. The Auditor-General found there were more than 4,000 potential cases of fraud and 207 home fires. The environmental benefits were not even evident because much of the insulation was faulty.

To date, not one minister or official has been held to account for this botched scheme, with ministers exempted from the Auditor-General's inquiry. Although the government has agreed to carry out inspections on homes, they are only committed to inspect 200,000, which falls very short with in excess of 1.1 million properties at risk. At this time, 95,000 inspections have been carried out, with 30 per cent of the homes inspected in March 2010 having problems, including serious safety concerns. These problems concerned quality of insulation, fire and safety risks and fraud—all of which were warned about before the program. This failure of ministerial accountability must be addressed. The government are continuing to hide the facts, figures and reports that the public, as well as the families of the victims, have a right to know. Every home placed at risk must be inspected to prevent further injury or death.

The Auditor-General's report found that the federal government put stimulus over the safety of workers and homeowners with this scheme. Whilst the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities suggested a five-year rollout for the plan due to weaknesses in IT systems capability, a shortage of accommodation for staff, recruitment, training and other challenges and serious backlogs with existing programs, this time frame did not meet the government stimulus objective for the program—and we have seen the consequences.

In my electorate of Forde, one of my constituents, a lady by the name of Jennifer Wingate, an elderly pensioner, called an electrician in to find out why her downlights were failing. The result was that the ceiling was on fire. She was later told by firefighters that in another 15 minutes or so the house would have been in flames. The electrician was also at risk of electrocution, as the ceiling was live. I personally visited Mrs Wingate's property. There was already insulation in the ceiling before the new, faulty insulation that caused those problems was installed.

The government must come clean about the safety figures as well as what warnings and advice on the home insulation program were received by ministers from industry, Commonwealth agencies and state and territory agencies. It has been reported that in excess of 20 warnings were received by the government about the risks associated with the program. The government must also advise whether the program had adequate measures in place to ensure that appropriate compliance, safety and quality standards were met. It is only through a properly constituted commission of inquiry with broad terms of reference that these important questions can be answered. I commend the bill to the House.