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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5646

Mr COMBET (Minister for Defence Materiel and Science and Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency) (1:14 PM) —In relation to the first question concerning fires, the statistics that I have alluded to are the statistics that the government hold that have been provided through the appropriate authorities, and we stand by those. I would not speculate on whether there are other incidents that have not yet been reported. We wait upon the respective fire authorities in the states and territories to provide the department with information following the investigation of a fire incident and the proper establishment of a relationship that may or may not exist with the Home Insulation Program—that is, insulation installed under the program.

It is also important to note in relation to this issue that the overwhelming majority of these incidents in fact involve smouldering that is detected by one mechanism or another in the ceiling, without extensive damage, thankfully, to a particular home. It is important to bear that in mind. In relation to the fire issue, it is extremely important—and I heard what the member for Lyne indicated—that the government focus on the Home Insulation Safety Program, the inspection program in respect of foil insulation that has been installed and non-foil insulation, which has been installed in over a million homes.

As I think is well known now, all of the slightly more than 50,000 homes that had foil insulation installed, predominantly in Queensland and northern New South Wales, are the subject of an inspection program by the government. Initial safety inspections have been done of approximately 24,000 of those homes. Currently, the Foil Insulation Safety Program is being rolled out with the objective of having a licensed electrician inspect each of those premises and the ceiling insulation installed, doing electrical and safety testing and advising the homeowner of the best course of action, that being either the removal of the foil insulation or the installation of circuit breakers or safety switches in those homes’ circuits. That will be done in respect of each of the homes that had foil insulation installed.

In relation to the more than one million homes that had non-foil forms of insulation installed, the government have indicated that at least—and it is important to emphasise that it is ‘at least’—150,000 homes will be the subject of an inspection. The identification of those homes is the subject of an ongoing risk assessment, and it is important to emphasise that it will be ongoing. We will inspect as many homes as is necessary, as indicated by the ongoing risk assessment. The types of criteria that are considered in that ongoing risk assessment and, therefore, the identification of homes to be inspected take into account insulation installers who may have, for example, a record of a fire safety hazard. So that is work that is constantly under review and is ongoing.

It is also important to bear in mind with this issue—and this partly responds to some of the public comments that the shadow minister, the member for Flinders, has been making from time to time—that there are also a number of very reputable, longstanding firms in this industry that undertook home insulation installations under the Home Insulation Program. For example, CSR Bradford is a major manufacturer and has a network of installers—I think the program is called Comfortchoice—and those companies provide a warranty for the product and a warranty for the installation work itself. And, if a homeowner has an issue in relation to that, there is a call centre number for them to call, and CSR Bradford and their network will come out and do a check and make sure it is okay. In those circumstances, where major companies like CSR and Fletcher have done a number of installations and are standing behind their work, the government expects them to live up to their warranties and to be responsive to their particular customers. Those are all important considerations in the design of the home inspection program. (Time expired)

Proposed expenditure agreed to.

Sitting suspended from 1.20 pm to 4.03 pm

Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Portfolio

Proposed expenditure, $2,369,314,000