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Weekend Sunrise -

View in ParlView

INTERVIEW WITH

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE

& LARRY EMDUR

WEEKEND SUNRISE

13 FEBRUARY 2010

SUBJECTS: Home Insulation Program

ARMYTAGE: The Opposition has renewed calls for the Environment Minister to resign. Peter Garrett is
under pressure for rolling out a multi-billion dollar insulation rebate scheme which has seen four
insulation installers die. Fire brigades around Australia have also reported a jump in the number
of house fires caused by poor insulation. And Peter Garrett joins us now minister good morning.

GARRETT: Good morning Sam.

ARMYTAGE: Kevin Rudd is standing by you, are you staying put?

GARRETT: Absolutely, and look we are just getting stuck into the job that I think people expect me
to do. As I said yesterday I'm rolling my sleaves up and getting on with it.

ARMYTAGE: Now you've admitted that you were warned last year about the potential safety issues
here, why are we seeing these major problems now?

GARRETT: Well it's very important for me to say that the claims that the Opposition are making
about warnings aren't exactly correct in this sense, and that's the fact that Sam, I asked for the
information. When we set this program up, I wanted to know what the safety risks would be, and
clearly there are a number of risks with putting ceiling insulation in people's roofs. On the
recovery of that information - taking the advice from technical experts, taking advice from the
insulation industry - we put in place a national training module to deal with making sure that when
people have insulation installed in their roofs it's done safely.

And I made quite a detailed statement to the Parliament on Thursday about all the steps that I've
taken, and even when the advice comes through to me I look at it very carefully - if I don't think
it goes far enough I've actually added to it. Which I did in relation to banning metal fasteners
for foil insulation. And so this is a scheme which was introduced because - we never had regulation
from the Commonwealth to make sure that ceilings were installed properly, we now have that.

ARMYTAGE: Do you admit that this scheme got out of control though?

GARRETT: No I don't. Look it was a strong demand-driven scheme. We made sure that two things
happened: firstly that the training that needed to be in place was put in place, and that we made
sure that people who signed up to install insulation knew about the guidelines- the guidelines were
clear about what their responsibilities were. We've set it at the Australian Standards level, in
some instances the - Building Code I beg your pardon - it's early in the morning also - and the
standards that we have are higher than that.

So here we have a system which was not previously regulated, we provided the regulation at the
Commonwealth level, and we've got a compliance regime in place, a name and shame register, if
installers do the wrong thing, if there's dodgy behaviour then they get taken account of.

ARMYTAGE: There are reports today about these cheap imports from places like China containing toxic
chemicals, you were aware of those reports?

GARRETT: Well again that's because I had a meeting with the polyester industry, and we discussed
this matter. It's very clear that the Australian standards that apply to all the insulation
products under this program, apply to polyester as well. So there's no provision for any product
that would be unsafe that didn't meet the Australian standards. I also, for the polyester industry,
put in place an approved list of products on the register. Now if the industry has got any examples
of materials that are unsafe I want to know about them. I've heard these allegations, I've had the
discussion with Mr Batt. But we haven't seen, they haven't brought forward any examples to me or to
the department of those materials and I encourage them to do that.

ARMYTAGE: Regardless of all of that four installers have died, numerous house-fires, do you feel
any level of guilt? Do you worry about this scheme in any way shape or form?

GARRETT: Look, guilt absolutely not. A desire to make sure that people do the right thing under
this program absolutely yes. I mean at the end of the day we put in place a scheme to provide a
basis for safe installation of insulation. That's my responsibility and I've done that. When safety
issues or other matters have arisen that I need to respond to, I've taken the advice and I've done
that as well.

But I say two things, this is like any other consumer interaction, when you've got builders coming
onto your site, or an electrician comes into your house or a plumber or something like that, you
want to make sure the work's done properly.

Get two quotes, make sure that they are a registered installer, don't sign the order form until the
work is done. These installers can't get paid until the householder is satisfied that the work's
been done properly. And finally to installers, you've always been on notice that safety is an
absolute priority for me, for this government. We will pursue you if you do not do the right thing.
You have a duty of care not only to the householders, but those that work with you, we expect that
to be followed.

ARMYTAGE: Will you meet the parents of the installers who have died?

GARRETT: Well I've spoken to one of the parents of the installers who tragically died. I've written
to another, and I'm always more than welcome to communicate with them, to express my genuine
sympathy for the situation they face. And to point out that we put in place measures following that
first tragic fatality which go far further than the existing Australian standards did in order to
make sure that safety is a priority for anyone working in the roofs putting in this good program.

ARMYTAGE: Ok, Peter Garrett we are going to have to leave it there, thankyou very much for coming
in this morning.

GARRETT: Hey no worries, good luck.