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Foil ban sparks electricians' debate -

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Foil ban sparks electricians' debate

Sarah Dingle reported this story on Monday, February 15, 2010 12:18:00

ELEANOR HALL: Master electricians from around Australia are heading to Canberra today to ask for a
guarantee from the Federal Government that the ban on foil insulation will not be lifted.

But the Federal Environment Minister, Peter Garrett won't be there. He is launching a plant and
animal conservation program in north-eastern New South Wales.

Despite the deaths of four home insulation installers, the Minster is continuing to reject calls
for him to resign over the implementation of the Federal Government program.

Sarah Dingle has our report.

SARAH DINGLE: What was meant to be an environmentally friendly stimulus measure turned into
disaster, when the Federal Government's foil insulation program was linked to the deaths of four

The use of the foil in the program was suspended last week and today electricians will meet with
the Government to determine whether and under what conditions the foil could be reintroduced.

Master Electricians' Malcolm Richards has no doubt about what must be done.

MALCOLM RICHARDS: At this point in time, without any further technical developments, we'll be
opposed to foil re-entering the program in its current format.

We've had a number of customer requests and inspections through our membership and we had two live
ceilings found last week from those inspections.

SARAH DINGLE: He says the material is used in new homes with great success, but the state of
Australian housing means the foil should be banned

MALCOLM RICHARDS: We are putting this foil into old homes that have got existing wiring and
existing wiring problems 30, 40, 50 years old.

From the audits that have been conducted to date, we have seen a figure somewhere around 20 per
cent of existing old homes have some form of existing electrical faults that people are unaware of
- a cover missing off a connection or a rodent chewing on a wire, those sorts of things. With those
faults there, if we start laying a sheet of conductive material across the top of them, we will
replicate those faults throughout the entire house.

SARAH DINGLE: But the CFMEU's national secretary, Dave Noonan says it's not the material which is
to blame.

DAVE NOONAN: The foil material does present a higher level of risk because of the nature of how it
has been fixed. I am advised that foil has been widely used for a number of years. What this is
really about is the training which is given to people before they perform this high-risk work.

SARAH DINGLE: Dave Noonan says there's a vast number of companies engaged under the foil insulation

DAVE NOONAN: It is not required that an electrician install insulation. There appear to be a number
of people who have been picked up to work in the area who have had no previous experience in
working in the industry and in particular no experience or training in working in ceilings which
are a high-risk area.

There should be minimum standards included in the criteria for companies to access the scheme to
ensure that the companies have actually carried out the training or made sure that the workers are
properly trained, each one of them.

SARAH DINGLE: The Environment Minister Peter Garrett won't be at today's meeting with stakeholders.
He's near Coffs Harbour, on the New South Wales north coast, launching a project to document flora
and fauna. A spokesman said the Coffs Harbour launch had been organised for a number of months and
that today's talks in Canberra is a technical meeting, not a decision-making forum.

The Opposition's environment spokesman Greg Hunt says he's amazed that Mr Garrett won't be there
but he also won't be attending.

GREG HUNT: Mr Garrett must and should be on site part of the most important issue for homeowners in
Australia right now and that is whether their roofs are safe.

SARAH DINGLE: Will you be going to the meeting today?

GREG HUNT: Well, we haven't been invited. We weren't told of the meeting. If we had known of it, we
would have made people available but Mr Garrett doesn't think it is good enough for him to attend
and he certainly hasn't been informing the Opposition of what he is doing.

SARAH DINGLE: Greg Hunt says 48,000 with the insulation need to have a safety check. The Opposition
is calling for a timetable for safety checks by tomorrow afternoon and Mr Hunt says all 48,000
should be checked within the next two weeks.

ELEANOR HALL: Sarah Dingle with our report.