EDITORIAL THURSDAY 18.02.10.
Four dead, 87 confirmed house fires, an estimated 1000 or more homes with electrified roof spaces, allegations of up to 40% of homes fitted with substandard worthless insulation materials, and $2 450 000 000 of taxpayers money spent so far. That’s the running total for the Federal Government’s home insulation subsidy scheme. Now, on top of that, it has emerged that there are also serious concerns about another government scheme also run by Peter Garrett’s department. The Clean Energy Council has warned that as many as 2000 homes could be at risk of fire as a result of poorly installed roof top solar panels.
At the height of the Global Financial Crisis, it seemed like a great idea to pump money into the economy and create jobs, while at the same time providing a lasting benefit by having a million homes fitted with insulation. It would improve the energy efficiency of those homes, reduce their ongoing energy costs, and improve their property values, while at the same time jobs and the economy would be suitably boosted. It certainly seemed like a good idea at the time. In fact, it still is a good idea. Unfortunately, it has been very badly implemented.
The failure of the government to respond to early warnings about safety, from the industry, from unions, from statutory authorities and from independent experts, represents either arrogance or ignorance, or possibly both. The failure to act swiftly after those safety concerns became reality and workmen began to die is terribly close to negligence. The attempt to pass the buck by blaming irresponsible contractors is a pathetic excuse which insults the people whom they were elected to serve.
It appears that neither Peter Garrett, nor the Prime Minister, really grasps the damage that has been done to the reputation of the Australian Government. Every Australian citizen should be entitled to expect that any program funded and endorsed by our government will meet the appropriate standards, both for safety and for quality. This whole debacle makes them look like a pack of shifty con men who couldn’t organize a chook raffle. In fact, a chook raffle would have been a better idea for boosting the economy because it would have been less likely to burn down anybody’s house.
It really doesn’t matter if Peter Garrett is sacked or not. Either way it won’t bring back the four dead workers, it won’t undo the damage of the 87 house fires, and it won’t undo the damage that has been done to the reputation of the Australian Government.