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Mixed reaction to insulation plans -

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Mixed reaction to insulation plans

The World Today - Tuesday, 3 February , 2009 12:22:00

Reporter: David Mark

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The Federal Government's plan to pay for the installation of ceiling insulation
in more than two million Australian homes has been met with a mixed reaction.

Some in the insulation industry have welcomed the move but others say it will just encourage shonky
operators to take advantage of gullible home owners.

One environmental group doubts the plan will do much to help with energy efficiency while the
Opposition says the Government is merely rehashing an old promise.

David Mark reports.

DAVID MARK: The details are sketchy but the timing is impeccable.

At the end of a scorching week around the country, the Federal Government has hinted at plans to
help insulate Australian houses.

Several of this morning's newspapers have reported details of the Government's plans to provide
either free or subsidised ceiling insulation to 2.7 million Australian homes.

The Government is yet to provide The World Today with the amount it's prepared to spend on each
home or the total budget for the package.

Even so, Steve Oliver, the New South state manager for Air-Cell insulation, which employs about 70
people around the country, says the move is a good one for his business.

STEVE OLIVER: It means that a lot of people are going to need insulation and we'll all become very
busy insulating these houses.

DAVID MARK: Two-point-seven million Australian homes, there's a lot of companies providing
insulation in Australia. Nevertheless, how long is it going to take to work through that workload?

STEVE OLIVER: It could take a couple of years, I'd say.

DAVID MARK: Does it mean you'll be putting on extra staff?

STEVE OLIVER: Yes, yes it does.

DAVID MARK: How many people do you think may have to put on?

STEVE OLIVER: It could mean putting on up to 20 people.

DAVID MARK: Do you have any sense at the moment of what it will mean in terms of a percentage
increase as to your business, to your bottom line?

STEVE OLIVER: We might see somewhere around the 10-15 per cent.

DAVID MARK: Ross Kessle is the general manager of Four Seasons Home Insulation based in Gosford on
the New South Wales Central Coast. His business turns over a couple of million dollars a year and
employs around 20 people.

He's expecting extra work from the Government's package, but argues it may not help his business in
the long term.

ROSS KESSLE: I think it's great for the economy and I think it's even better for the environment.
But for businesses with plans to stay in the industry for a long term it could actually change all
our plans.

DAVID MARK: Why is that?

ROSS KESSLE: Well, first of all, it's going to probably help the very large fibre-glass insulation
manufacturers the most, especially as they're suffering the building downturn. So that means they
could end up getting the lion's share of the work. And also it's going to probably drag in a lot of
the shonky people in the world. You know you're going to have a lot of unreputable sales people
running around, you're going to have a lot of unreputable installers suddenly appear.

DAVID MARK: So you're concerned that once this demand's taken up, once these 2.7 million homes are
insulated, there won't be as much work?

ROSS KESSLE: There won't be as much domestic work, where half of our work comes from at the moment,
and a lot of the small insulation contractors rely on the domestic work. So it will change the face
of the industry a fair bit.

DAVID MARK: The senior campaigner at the Total Environment Centre in Sydney, Jane Castle, has
similar concerns.

She argues the Government could do more to encourage energy efficiency.

JANE CASTLE: Often these handouts, they're one off and then they collapse in the heap. We do
welcome it but we think it needs to be part of a comprehensive plan and part of a package of new
incentives so that the energy supply industry is about efficiency first, and supply second. And
that's how we're going to avoid more blackouts, by increasing the reliability of our system so that
demand doesn't keep spiralling over supply.

DAVID MARK: Matthew Warren is the CEO of the Clean Energy Council which represents Australia's
renewable energy sector. And he's congratulating the Government.

MATTHEW WARREN: Insulation is a no-brainer technology. It's affordable, it saves energy, it creates
jobs in Australia because most of the insulation is manufactured in Australia. It saves households
money and it saves greenhouse emissions. It's a win-win, win-win.

DAVID MARK: But the Federal Opposition's spokesman for housing Scott Morrison, isn't so sure. He
says the Government is simply re-hashing old promises.

SCOTT MORRISON: They announced a program for $500 rebates in May of last year and it still hasn't
started. And with the Government has formed on killing a solar rebate program and killing our solar
industry, based on what they did in last year's budget because they weren't prepared to ensure that
rebate was allowed to all homes where people were looking to reduce carbon emissions. I mean
they've got to decide whether they're going to do things for welfare reasons or whether they're
going to do things for reducing emissions.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The Federal Opposition's spokesman for housing Scott Morrison, ending David
Mark's report.