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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5569

Mr DREYFUS (5:07 PM) —The government has in place a comprehensive safety plan to deal with the wind-up of the Home Insulation Program. The elements of that plan are a Home Insulation Safety Program, a Foil Insulation Safety Program, industry assistance and payments, and strong fraud and compliance measures. It is useful to hear from the member for Greenway that the urgent inspection that her constituent called for was in fact arranged and that the inspection disclosed that there was no risk of fire. That of course demonstrates that the Home Insulation Safety Program, under which safety inspections of at least 150,000 homes with non-foil insulation are to be carried out, is underway. The inspections are being targeted at homes that are most likely to have safety issues. It is based on an ongoing risk assessment. As you would appreciate, Deputy Speaker Moylan, risk assessment is something that is informed by the results of inspections as they are carried out. That risk assessment is being developed by PricewaterhouseCoopers. If the ongoing risk assessment indicates that more houses should be inspected, they will be. As well, any household that has safety concerns with installations under the Home Insulation Program can request an inspection through the safety hotline on 131792. Those inspections are being performed in addition to the minimum of 150,000 homes. The Home Insulation Safety Program is being managed by PricewaterhouseCoopers, and PricewaterhouseCoopers is engaging subcontractors to assist with the inspection program.

Some other details have already been provided by the Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, but I draw the attention of the House to the approach that has been taken by the opposition throughout this insulation program. The truth is that the government is approaching this issue in a reasoned, safe and sensible manner. By contrast, the opposition’s approach is characterised by hypocrisy, exaggeration, misinformation and scaremongering. What we are hearing from the opposition—in particular from the shadow minister but also from the Leader of the Opposition and a little bit more from the member for Greenway just now—is the spreading of alarm and fear and the misuse of statistics. There is no real concern here for the safety of households; rather there is concern with scoring political points.

We had a very recent example, I regret to say, of the misleading use of statistics. It occurred just today when the shadow minister used the statistics that the government has made available and has regularly made available. We heard the admission of the shadow minister during the course of his speech—he likes to pepper his remarks with the adjective ‘secret’ to describe statistics as if some concealment had occurred in relation to statistics on fires and inspections. But in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The government has regularly made available information about the course of the inspection program and has regularly made available statistics about the occurrence of fire incidents. That was what occurred yesterday when the minister made available the most recently published statistics about fire incidents, which the shadow minister chose to convert into—in his words—‘almost one fire a day. We have had 18 in the last 20 days and 30 in the last 32 days.’ That is a misuse of the statistics. As the minister has made clear, these fire incident statistics are regularly made available by the fire authorities and do not simply report on the fire incidents which have occurred since the last time statistics were made available. In many cases—and it was the case with this particular lot of fire incidents—they include fire incidents going back to as long ago as last October. But the member for Flinders would not wish to let the facts get in the way of a good scare campaign. He is wishing to ramp up the level of alarm, ramp up the statistics in a way to suggest that there has been a sudden occurrence of fires. The truth is that it is simply a matter of reporting times. At least several of these fires occurred some considerable time ago.

So too the member for Flinders is always keen to amplify rather than diminish and reassure in relation to the type of fire incidents which are occurring. He has available to him the same statistics that the minister has just provided to the House, which disclose that of the 174 fire incidents to 15 June which have been linked to the home insulation program, 111 of them were attended by fire authorities. The fire authorities have provided information which tells us that only six resulted in structural damage to the dwelling, 15 resulted in structural damage to the roof and 90 did not result in structural damage. That is not a factor that the member for Flinders or any of those opposite would wish to make the subject of analysis. Those are categorisations that are provided by the fire authorities.

So too in relation to fraudulent behaviour—the shadow minister calls for strong action on fraudulent behaviour but then he writes to the government, advocating on behalf of selected installation companies, some of which are subject still to investigation for compliance issues or fraud, asking that their outstanding payments be made immediately. The shadow Treasurer has gone so far as to make public comments to the effect that there should be interest paid to some of these companies for withholding payments. The government is rightly not prepared to do this. The government should not be rushed—and it is wrong for the opposition to suggest otherwise—into making payments to companies who are legitimately under investigation.

There is a professed concern for households, but I suggest that the opposition is not truly concerned with the risk to households or the safety of households. If the opposition were truly concerned in that way, then we would hear from the shadow minister, we would hear from those opposite, a publicising of the government’s safety programs, a publicising of the inspections that are available to everyone who has had insulation installed under this program and a publicising of the hotline numbers under which it is possible to ring to arrange an inspection. The shadow minister would be assisting householders to participate in the safety program that the government has organised.

The shadow minister has repeatedly called for all homes insulated under the program to be inspected. That call is to ignore the fact that very many of the homes that have had insulation installed under this program had their insulation installed by good reputable companies. Two of the bigger firms involved are Fletcher Insulation, which is the company that manufactures pink batts in a number of locations around Australia, including a very large plant in my electorate in south Dandenong. Fletcher Insulation has a very long established installer network. CSR Bradford is another of the large manufacturers in Australia of insulation. CSR Bradford has been in the business for many years. It makes the product known as gold batts. The member for Flinders and those opposite want to talk down the businesses and want to talk down the industry as a whole. Both Fletchers and CSR Bradford for very many years have offered a guarantee of the quality of their product and a guarantee of their insulation. As the minister said in his speech, CSR Bradford has backed this up publicly with advertisements about the extent of assurance that CSR Bradford is prepared to put behind its work. In these circumstances, there is no fundamental reason why the government should be inspecting homes. We have commercial warranties in place by reputable firms.

The simple fact is that the shadow minister and the opposition are not really concerned with the sensible and careful wind-up of the government’s Home Insulation Program. The shadow minister is concerned only about politics. He will not stop the hypocrisy to make his point. He will not be concerned about unduly raising concern and he is not concerned about the damage he is doing to the industry. He is seemingly not concerned about misrepresenting the truth. We say that it is high time the opposition stopped this scare campaign and offered the government support in the comprehensive, orderly and careful efforts the government is making to safely wind up this program. (Time expired)