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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 12139


Ms GAMBARO (Brisbane) (21:59): It is with much concern that I rise to speak tonight on issues that continue to plague my electorate and continue to be the hallmark of this government's incompetence and waste. Firstly, the Home Insulation Program administered by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency since 2008 has been, and still is, an absolutely appalling project that not only wasted $3.9 billion but also cost Australian lives. The frustration and anger that many constituents in suburbs like Windsor and Newmarket are feeling is absolutely unbelievable. Unfortunately, the fact that the Labor government devised such a poor program was very predictable.

One of my constituents, Mr Mark Squires, had his home insulation installed in 2008 when the program started. The Australian people have discovered since that the program was really out there to help unlicensed shonky dealers, with much of the so-called economic stimulus going offshore to foreign producers of pink batts. After the Labor government finally admitted the failures of the scheme, the Labor government terminated it prematurely on 19 February 2010. It has been more than a year and a half since the government began the Home Insulation Safety Program, and the incompetence of the scheme continues. Mr Squires has had four insulation inspection appointments with the department scheduled since February 2010. These appointments have not even been cancelled in advance; the inspectors just do not even bother to turn up. As Mr Squires has said, this is an absolute joke. The projected end of the home insulation remediation program is, according to the government, supposed to be at the end of 2011. The next appointment for Mr Squires is scheduled for 17 December 2011. I look forward to hearing from the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency about whether inspectors will finally make it to this constituent's home.

On top of this I have had residents from Stafford, who in 2009 contacted the environment minister, citing safety concerns regarding home insulation. To this date, despite one insulation inspection in 2010, no-one from the department has even bothered to remove the foil insulation, and on 2 September this year an inspection was planned for 8 am, but—have a guess—nobody turned up or attempted to schedule another appointment.

Secondly, the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator has recently announced that more than 80,000 solar rooftop devices may have been installed to a substandard and defective level. Just as with the Home Insulation Program, shonky operators are flooding the market, and it is even believed that some who were registered foil installers may be finding a new avenue for their business. Reputable companies from the sector warned the government at Senate estimates last year about the potential for substandard products and installation. I would really like an explanation from the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency regarding the administration of this program. Why were appropriate safeguards not implemented, given that it has cost constituents in my electorate thousands of dollars?

One such constituent is Karen Davis. She genuinely wanted to do her bit to help the environment. She placed an order for 21 solar panels and a five-kilowatt inverter in February 2011 with a company called Cleaner Energy. After that, everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong. It took Cleaner Energy until June to install the solar panels after promising to do so for months. Ms Davis arrived home one day to find that the contractors had placed them on the wrong side of the roof. A couple of weeks after that, the 5-kilowatt inverter fell off. Then—this is the best part—she received her electricity bill, to discover that it had increased by $1,000 over her previous account because the solar panels had not been connected to the grid. As Ms Davis said, 'It is now almost November and I have a solar system worth over $20,000 sitting on my roof as a white elephant.'

I have written to the Minster for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency requesting information on what the government is going to do to rectify the mistakes in designing and administering this program, and I look forward to his response. These problems were clearly identifiable before the programs began. So long as we have a Labor government running this country, I expect to see many more of these sorts of disasters. In 2007, the Labor government inherited a $20 billion surplus with zero net debt. As a consequence of their incompetence, the Commonwealth government's net debt will now be more than $100 billion, and as a result of their incompetence they ran two programs—the Home Insulation Program and the solar rebate scheme—

Mr Danby: I bet you were at every BER opening!

Ms GAMBARO: that were exploited by rip-off merchants, wasting billions of dollars and frustrating many Australians. (Time expired)