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Monday, 8 February 2010
Page: 725

Mr LAMING (9:39 PM) —Children around the land for the last decade have been taught that the great future in jobs is green jobs. We have seen Prime Minister Howard’s Green Corps; we have seen Tony Abbott’s Green Army. But the true disgrace, where we have seen green to the obscene, has been the Rudd government and its triumvirate of ham-fisted failures in attempting to create jobs in the green sector. We all know very well how they managed to collapse the entire solar rebate scheme; that is history and I do not need to go over it. Number two, we remember how they then quintupled, not doubled or trebled, the renewable energy certificates on home solar rebates, and that caused a complete collapse in the price of RECS and a loss of confidence in the system. Then of course there was the now famous home insulation program where the government plucked $1,600 out of the air and basically farmed three-point-something billion dollars into allowing, in many cases, anyone who could get hold of a ute and a couple of mates to drive out and solicit the opportunity to get into the insides of houses and put in home insulation. What have we seen? We have seen house fires, poorly trained installers and the tragedy of four electrocutions—one of those reported today, quite tragically—because of a lack of training. We also have the anecdotes of people pushing insulation up through the manhole and then lifting a couple of roof tiles and pushing it back out again into the truck, driving off and collecting the $1,600. This is a program that is a disgrace for any government that runs it.

You might have thought it could not get any worse but, alas, it has. We have the home sustainability assessment scheme, HSAS. It will reverberate in your ears, members on the other side, for the next few weeks, because you have pushed not hundreds but thousands of young Australians—small business people, part-time employed people—basically over the edge because of a program that was promised to run through to 2013 and is about to collapse in the weeks ahead. Now, there is another thing that you learn at school: it is never good to get into a sector where the government controls both the supply and demand, let alone the accreditation. But they will soon be learning that it is not ever a smart thing to take a job in any opportunity run by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett, and his department, because what we have is not the promise—from Senate estimates in 2008—of just 1,000 to 2,000 assessors being trained, but some bright spark in that department deciding it might be a good idea to completely deregulate training altogether. We have seen stories filtering in from around the country of training organisations shoehorning hundreds of people into auditoriums, of four-day courses becoming just a DVD in the mail and now not 1,000, 2,000 or 5,000, but 10,000 assessors paying up to $3,000, and in some cases $7,000, for training, accreditation and insurance—insurance for which no claims have ever been made. We have 200,000 houses assessed. With an additional 22,000 everyday, this scheme will collapse unless this government does something in the next month.

These people have put their lives on the line. They expected some certainty through to 2013. They were promised an income by training organisations of $5,000 a week, incomes that will never, ever occur. Far from listening to the warnings in August, what we now have is the reality made clear in an ABSA email sent to Minister Garrett’s department on 25 August. It begins:

We are fielding a very large number of calls and emails from growing numbers of increasingly disgruntled assessors.

It goes on to say that they are recommending, as they have a responsibility to their assessors, that the numbers are capped from 30 September and that that advice must go out on 1 September to prevent overloading of both ABSA and the DEWHA systems and to protect the work of the assessors currently trained. What happened? Nothing. Not until January did they finally wake up in that department. That is a very long Christmas holiday.

We have heard of pyramid schemes before where those who get in first get something out of it and the late entrants get nothing, but what we had from this government was a GFC induced panic to try and push as many people into work as they could regardless of any obligations made in promises made in 2008 to train between 1,000 and 2,000 assessors only. What we now have is the appalling collapse of the fourth scheme under this minister and we are looking at $15 million being paid by assessors, many of whom will never recoup those costs. It is a disgrace.

What do we have in emails from 22 and 29 January from ABSA to its frustrated members who cannot get membership? They say they are ‘now holding over 5,000 new applications awaiting processing’ and that it is counterproductive to take any further fees nor accept applications. So there is no guarantee of any assurance of any particular volume of work. But in the end all of your money will ensure you remain a member of ABSA and that you will ‘receive ongoing communications’ by email from us of further government programs. That is all that your government can offer these Australians, many of whom came home from the GFC looking for a secure occupation and got nothing but the disappointment of a Rudd generated pyramid scheme.

You expect more from a government. Running through a crisis and controlling the economy is not easy, but running a home sustainability assessment scheme should be. (Time expired)