tip off

Pink batts commission hands Abbott four explosive problems

Tony “the infrastructure Prime Minister” Abbott may well find that the report by the Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Program comes back to burn him, writes freelance journalist Alan Austin.

Royal commissions are like fireworks — spectacular to watch from a safe distance, but painful when they blow up in your face.

When the royal commission into the home insulation program (HIP) released its report on Monday, Commissioner Ian Hanger handed Tony Abbott a bottle rocket, a thunderflash, a cherry bomb and a penny banger — all with lit fuses.

Embedded in the report are at least four smouldering issues for the Coalition government.

First, Hanger found the training regime and regulations at the time of the first of four fatalities in October 2009 to have been seriously inadequate:

With the exception of South Australia, which had a licensing regime for insulation installers, there was no insulation-industry specific regulation beyond the generally applicable occupational health and safety regulation.”

But here’s the thing: then-minister for the environment Peter Garrett and his staff had spent most of 2009 tightening regulations and procedures. Hanger listed more than 40 interventions to address safety deficiencies — all completed before October. So if the safety framework was still deficient by then, it must have been woefully, if not criminally, inadequate prior to 2008. Having presided over industry growth to the level of about 200,000 new and existing houses insulated annually, the previous Coalition government cannot escape culpability.

Secondly, Hanger opened wide the door to those wanting compensation for the program’s sudden termination:

I find as follows:

… the effect of the losses was to devastate many long-standing businesses … and to cause as well personal financial collapse and severe despair and emotional harm;

that harm and such circumstances justifies pre-existing businesses being compensated.”

If compensation is won, it will be the Abbott government scrambling to find the funds.

This has a certain rough justice about it, of course. There is an argument that the scheme was not intrinsically dangerous and was not failing, rather that it suffered from extreme misreporting from the outset, by both Coalition MPs and a feral media.

Thirdly, the Commissioner was scathing about Abbott’s staff in the course of the inquiry:

The Commonwealth did not suggest one witness that ought to be called. It did not generally volunteer documents that were not the subject of a summons to produce. It did not elicit any evidence of its own volition. All of this is despite the fact that it was the repository of the critical documents and the corporate knowledge of what had transpired.”

Not even Peter Garrett copped such a shellacking:

Furthermore, the Commonwealth hampered the work of those assisting me by the way in which documents were produced … Other than in response to a specific request from the Commission, there seemed no logic in the order in which documents were produced. The Commission asked that documents be produced chronologically, however the Commonwealth did not oblige.”

Finally, the Commissioner made it clear that if the federal government initiated the program, then safety is definitely its problem. Never mind the long history of state responsibility.

There was much debate about whether workplace health and safety issues were a matter that was of any concern to the Australian Government, or whether it was more properly the concern of the States and Territories. It was said, by a number of federal public servants, that the Australian Government had no regulatory power in the field of workplace health and safety, and therefore that it was not a risk that the Australian Government could control. In my view, this attitude was deplorable.”

So from now on, workplace deaths in all the bold infrastructure programs Abbott and his colleagues have planned all over Australia will be on their heads. There need only be four deaths on a port or airport or freeway construction site for there to be calls for ministerial resignations. Did Abbott consider these outcomes when he launched this political attack?

What’s that funny smell? Singed hair and burnt fingers?

*Alan Austin is a freelance journalist who divides his time between Australia and France. His topics are the news media, religious affairs and economic and social issues impacting the disadvantaged.

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  • 1
    Bob's Uncle
    Posted Wednesday, 3 September 2014 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    The idea that any of the logic or arguments set out in the HIP RC paper will ever be seriously applied to anything that the Coalition Government does is nice, but completely unrealistic.

    If all accidents occurring in a rebate scheme carried out by private companies under State jurisdiction can be blamed on the Cth on the basis of where the funding came from, a specific infrastructure project such as a road (or Green Army…) would result in an even higher standard for the Cth.

    In reality though there was never any intention for this RC to extend beyond an investigation of a single policy.

  • 2
    klewso
    Posted Wednesday, 3 September 2014 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Those Ministers responsible for this should be tried and treated accordingly to gaol terms?
    Then we can have a look at Iraq, NPA and the bugging of East Timor - using the same standards?
    That is if this wasn’t just a witch-hunt?

  • 3
    GF50
    Posted Wednesday, 3 September 2014 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    So good to read you on this site Alan. Last sentence I hope so.

  • 4
    zut alors
    Posted Wednesday, 3 September 2014 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    The Abbott government believes it’s coated in teflon therefore nothing sticks. They are in for a rude shock down the track. The electorate was sufficiently naive & swayed by a complicit media to vote them in a year ago but it’s unlikely that mistake will be repeated consecutively.

    Now that Turnbull is gutting Rudd’s superior NBN there’s no logical reason for Murdoch to continue his support.

  • 5
    Susan Timmins
    Posted Wednesday, 3 September 2014 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Peter Timmins Open and Shut Blog

    You can add these points to the list:

    . senior managers failed to provide candid advice to Ministers including briefings to Minister Garrett (14.3.2);

    . if “frank, honest, comprehensive, accurate and timely advice of the kind referred to in section 10(1)(f) of the Public Service Act had been given at key junctures”, there is little doubt the tragedies that occurred would have been avoided (14.3.4);

    .in a section on frank and fearless advice in the context of the public service today (14.6) a call for the Australian Public Service “to reinvigorate its willingness to provide in writing advice that is as frank and robust as the advice it is willing to give verbally. This requires cultural change of two kinds:14.6.6.1-senior officials and Ministers being aware they are entitled to act contrary to advice. The fact they received advice contrary to the way in which they act is no necessary or automatic basis to impugn the decision. 14.6.6.2- public servants giving advice must be encouraged to think clearly, to free themselves as much as possible from institutional biases and taboos and to have courage when giving advice.”

    . criticism of government over reach on public interest immunity claims that were advanced in a slow and cumbersome manner,

    .gaps in his powers for example to compel the production of a statement by a potential witness (despite a recommendation never acted upon, from the ALRC four years ago), and constraints on current and past public servants arising from section 70 of the Crimes Act (the ALRC recommended five years ago repeal of the current draconian ‘unauthorised disclosure’ provision and a replacement based on identifiable harm - that also hasn’t been heard of since);

    I imagine Senator Abetz Minister Assisting the PM on public service matters is already hard at work on remedial action.

  • 6
    mikeb
    Posted Wednesday, 3 September 2014 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Have these findings been reported in the media? If so I haven’t read or heard of it.

  • 7
    Gratton Wilson
    Posted Wednesday, 3 September 2014 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    The Labor Gov. had to pay for the criminal behaviour of the Howard Gov against Vivianne Salonge, Cornelia Rau and Mamdouh Habib. Nobody has yet paid for Howard’s treatment of David Hicks but I live in hope that he may get some sort of justice one day. I understand that one of the installers who died was using a metal stapler well after employers had been instructed that they were not to be used. Employers should train their employees and never tolerate unsafe work practices.

  • 8
    Yclept
    Posted Wednesday, 3 September 2014 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    C’mon people, this is all clearly Labor’s fault. We just need to redo the RC to make sure it says it this time… Remember it’s labor’s fault!

  • 9
    JMNO
    Posted Wednesday, 3 September 2014 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    Cutting the Public Service and outsourcing its functions to the private sector will only decrease the APS’ ability to plan and direct infrastructure programs in the future. A number of years ago, the APS could much more easily have run a pink batts program because it still employed expert staff who knew industry and had networks.

  • 10
    leon knight
    Posted Wednesday, 3 September 2014 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Abbott’s pathetic presentation of the report in Parliament showed pretty clearly that the RC was not the PR success he hoped it would be, and even his thick head might have been grappling with the ramifications still to come home to haunt him.
    Garrett was the very model of sensible and responsible ministership compared to any of this current bunch….

  • 11
    Glen
    Posted Wednesday, 3 September 2014 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    On the statistics it’s likely that four people died as a result of traumatic injury at Australian workplaces last week. Long involvement in OH&S leads me to expect that each of those will have been the result of a nasty conjunction of circumstances, probably abetted by carelessness, negligence, woeful regulatory oversight, and perhaps even Ministerial disinterest or incompetence. Surely Mr Abbott must soon announce a $20M commission of inquiry into this last-week-of-winter disaster. What’s that … isn’t going to happen? It seems that not all groups of four workplace deaths are of equal importance.

  • 12
    Glen
    Posted Wednesday, 3 September 2014 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Missing from the report, and from all discussion of the matter, seems to be any mention of the culpability of the electrical trade in this matter. Wiring in modern house roof spaces is a disgrace — cables draped every which way, no proper cable routing, zero cable protection — all in a space that is typically fairly accessible and often used for storage. In an industrial setting that would border on criminal negligence.

    Why is this situation acceptable? Presumably because it meets the current Australian standard. And who wrote that standard? I don’t know, but based on usual Standards Australia practice, it was very likely drafted by a committee dominated by the members of the electrical trade.

  • 13
    Peter Hannigan
    Posted Wednesday, 3 September 2014 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    The existence of this Royal Commission seems to me to be the result of a ‘courageous decision’. In the past governments did not investigate each other despite dodgy practices by individual ministers. Now the precedent is set so that whenever there is a change of government the new one can work to discredit their predecessor by setting up a Royal Commission into their most unpopular and/or unsuccessful activities.

    You would have to be a true believer to think this government won’t make some serious mistakes along the way. Every other previous government has made them. A lot of public servants will be keeping careful personal records when put onto questionable areas of activity.

  • 14
    bushby jane
    Posted Wednesday, 3 September 2014 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    I don’t agree with a lot of what Commissioner Hanger’s findings. It seems to me that the deaths attributed to the ‘pink batts scheme’ were not a particular problem of Rudd & co but a fault of OH&S or Workplace Standards being applied and adhered to, also the use of foil, not pink batts at all.
    The fact that 3 of the 4 happened in Queensland tells you something for a start. A state matter perhaps.

  • 15
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted Wednesday, 3 September 2014 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    Alan Austin: you say -

    There is an argument that the scheme was not intrinsically dangerous and was not failing, rather that it suffered from extreme misreporting from the outset, by both Coalition MPs and a feral media”.

    What absolute dross, unsupported by any believable data other than your grand conspiracy theories as presented your earlier dross in support of the latest batch.

    The HIP R C Report contains dozens of examples in support of the Rudd Government’s gross stupidity in its roll-out of this disaster.

    Based on this piece, I reckon religious mythology is your forte.

  • 16
    Alan Austin
    Posted Wednesday, 3 September 2014 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    Intriguing comments. Thank you.

    @mikeb, the reportage in the mainstream media, including the ABC, has been consistent with that from the day the scheme was announced – that it was botched, a disaster, a disgrace, a shambles, a scandal and a waste. This was decided, it seems, well before the first pink batt was actually stuffed up a manhole.

    Several alternative media outlets, however, have reported the scheme fairly.

    The most important coverage has been by Possum Comitatus here at Crikey. Pretty much all those outside the Murdoch-led mainstream who have endeavoured to cover the HIP honestly owe a great debt to the Possum.

    An excellent piece by Prof Rodney Tiffen ran in Inside Story. And another online independent journal has run a series based on my sworn statement to the commission. All easily googled.

    @Grattan Wilson, yes, all four employers of the deceased were prosecuted and/or deregistered. Refer Hanger’s report paragraphs 12.2.37, 12.3.20, 12.4.25 and 12.6.23.

    @Peter Hannigan, no, only one side of politics in Australia does that, it seems.

  • 17
    CML
    Posted Thursday, 4 September 2014 at 1:10 am | Permalink

    Thank you Alan for writing this article in Crikey.
    I have read all 7 of your articles in Independent Australia, and am just sorry that the MSM, including the ABC, have chosen to l+e to the general public.
    I also endorse your comments re the investigation undertaken by Possum some years ago, and published here on Crikey. Just brilliant!
    It is just outrageous that none of the benefits of the scheme have ever been commented on in the MSM, as far as I am aware.
    The RC was nothing but a blatant political exercise to damage the Labor Party. It should be quite obvious to anyone who has read all the material available, that the States (excepting South Australia) and the employers of these young people who died, were almost entirely to blame for the loss of life which occurred during this program.
    I hope you are correct that this ‘fixed’ RC will come back to bite the Coalition government on the nether regions.
    Couldn’t happen to a more deserving group of genuine no-hopers!!

  • 18
    GideonPolya
    Posted Thursday, 4 September 2014 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Excellent article by Allen Austin. An Elephant in the Room issue that is almost completely ignored in look-the-other-way Australia is that of about 60,000 Australians who die preventably each year – in stark numerical contrast to the 4 young insulation installers who died tragically because employers and State regualtors ignored State workplace safety laws (Gideon Polya, “Why PM Julia Gillard Must Go: 66,000 Preventable Australian Deaths Annually”, Countercurrents, 21 February, 2012: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya210212.htm ), and all necessarily linked to the fiscal perversions of subsidizing the One Percenters and Ten Percenters with $40 bilion pa on superanuation perks and negative gearing to $300 billion pa on increased Carbon Debt due to greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution (see Gideon Polya, “Australian Coalition Government Sacrifices Key Industries While Committing Hundreds Of Billions Of Dollars To Carbon Pollution & War”, Countercurrents, 10 February, 2014: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya100214.htm ).
    1. 18,000 annual Australian deaths from adverse hospital events.
    2. 15,500 smoking-related Australian deaths annually.
    3. 10,000 carbon burning pollution-derived Australian deaths annually.
    4. 9.000 avoidable Indigenous Australian deaths annually (2000 data; 2,000 per year as of 2012).
    5. 6,000 obesity-related Australian deaths annually.
    6. 3,000 Australians die alcohol-related deaths annually (latest estimate is 7,000 per year).
    7. 2,100 Australian suicides annually.
    8. 1,400 Australian road deaths annually
    9. 360 Australian opiate drug-related deaths annually due to US restoration of the Taliban-destroyed Afghan opium industry.
    10. 300 Australian homicides annually.

  • 19
    BSA Bob
    Posted Thursday, 4 September 2014 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    The aim of all this has been achieved. The same words, the same photos have been dusted off & returned to our screens & the airwaves. And so it will continue, this whole affair is largely a creation of the media & the media will protect its creation.
    As for future problems for the Abbott government, he’ll ignore them.

  • 20
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted Thursday, 4 September 2014 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    CML: maybe you’d like to list the benefits of the scheme for all of us.

    Don’t be shy now…..

  • 21
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted Thursday, 4 September 2014 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Alan Austin:

    In the appalling, flawed partisan fantasy you constructed on the Independent Australia page that you quote in the above article, you say:

    According to objective analysis, however, the HIP was a remarkable success.”

    Would you care to list examples of that success for Crikey readers.

  • 22
    tonyfunnywalker
    Posted Thursday, 4 September 2014 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Oh dear another - “get Labor” inquiry catches the Coalition in its net. Strange as Abbott gave up Cabinet Documents breaking the 30 year tradition to get Rudd while holding back on other documents — so it was a witch hunt - which we all knew anyway. Abbott may be reluctant to start witch hunts in future as ICAC in New Wales is still claiming Liberal scalps while NSW Labor is becoming more and more of a spectator rather than the intended prey. “Revenge is better served cold”

  • 23
    Alan Austin
    Posted Friday, 5 September 2014 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Certainly, @Kevin Herbert,
    When the Howard Government left office in 2007, Australia’s economy was the 9th best-performed in the world - behind Norway, Iceland, Luxembourg, Kuwait, Finland, Hong Kong, Singapore and the UAE.
    Over the last few years of the Howard government, fires resulting from insulation ran at 47.3 fires per 100,000 homes per year.
    Deaths in the industry ran at 1.08 per 100,000 homes.
    Overall electrocutions averaged 22.5 per year.
    Overall construction deaths averaged 104.25 per year.
    Correct?
    Then in came a new government, acted swiftly to clean up the regulation deficiencies and responded rapidly to the sudden 2008 4th quarter downturn.
    These are the results:
    Fires in the insulation industry dropped to 13.9 fires per 100,000 homes per year – down a staggering 70%.
    Deaths in the industry dropped below 0.4 per 100,000 homes – down an extraordinary 66%.
    Overall electrocutions dropped to 12 per year – down 46.7%
    Overall construction deaths dropped to 69 per year – down 33.8%
    And the economy by 2010 was clearly the best-performed in the world.
    Correct?
    References all available - and are, in fact all embedded in those articles.
    Happy to discuss, Kevin.

  • 24
    mikeb
    Posted Friday, 5 September 2014 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Facts are irrelevant. Perception is reality and the haters will continue to live a “Matrix” type existance. Unfortunately there is no Neo to free their minds.

  • 25
    klewso
    Posted Friday, 5 September 2014 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Alan, you wouldn’t read about it - not in our Murdoch dominated Limited News?

  • 26
    Itsarort
    Posted Friday, 5 September 2014 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Small Business, the backbone of this country - just ask them. Turns out there’s some individuals who are greedy, incompetent, self-interested and will cut corners for their own personal gain, even at the dire peril of others. Well, bowl me over with a pink bat.

  • 27
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted Friday, 5 September 2014 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Alan Austin:

    you’re not answering my question which asked you to provide data in support of your claim that:

    “According to objective analysis, however, the HIP was a remarkable success.”

    Your above response DOES NOT ANSWER that question in any way shape or form. Your above statement (22) that:

    Then in came a new (Labor) government, acted swiftly to clean up the regulation deficiencies and responded rapidly to the sudden 2008 4th quarter downturn”.

    Huh??..you’ll have to explain how the Federal Rudd Government acted to clean up which State regulatory deficiencies,(which for the record are outside the Feds jurisdiction) & how you connect that alleged Federal Government action with your silly claim that the HIP was a ‘remarkable success’.

  • 28
    The Pav
    Posted Friday, 5 September 2014 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Hello Kevin Herbert

    Are you still out there or like all Abbott fanatics innuculated against truth and fact.

  • 29
    Alan Austin
    Posted Friday, 5 September 2014 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    Correct, Itsarort.
    Mr Hanger was well aware of the guilt of the employers: all four companies which employed the deceased were prosecuted and/or deregistered.
    Refer Mr Hanger’s report at paragraphs 12.2.37, 12.3.20, 12.4.25 and 12.6.23.
    Has it happened anywhere else in the Westminster world, do you think, Itsarort, that courts have found particular companies and individuals demonstrably at fault for violating clear laws which they knew were in place. And yet an inquiry still blames the federal government which acted to put the safety laws in place.
    Ah, you crazy Australians!

  • 30
    Alan Austin
    Posted Friday, 5 September 2014 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Hi again Kevin Herbert,
    Yes, happy to expand a bit further.
    The purpose of the scheme was to rescue Australia from the looming recession at the end of 2008. This was accomplished admirably.
    Best intervention in the world, in fact.
    To validate this, simply follow the embedded links in this article (an extract from a sworn statement to the Royal Commission):
    http://www.independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/pink-batts-extraordinary-success-in-averting-recession-part-one,6470
    The successful moves the Rudd government made to clean up the industry are all on the record.
    The Queensland Coroner’s report’s Annexure A - Chronology of key events in the HIP - lists about 60 interventions to deal with safety and fraud.
    In Appendix Nine, Royal Commissioner Ian Hanger lists more than 40 of these safety initiatives - all put in place by the Rudd Government well before the first fatality in October 2009.
    Unfortunately Mr Hanger does not provide the data on the dramatic drop in fires - down by 70%.
    Nor the data on the dramatic drop in injuries and fatalities.
    Fortunately, the CSIRO and other authorities do.

  • 31
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted Friday, 5 September 2014 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    The Pav:

    Yet another doctrinaire Labor dill, dealing out the ad hominem cheap shots.

    FYI I don’t support Abbott or Labor…I support good policy & outcomes in the public interest.

    People like you are the bane of constructive public discourse.

  • 32
    Ken Hemmes
    Posted Saturday, 6 September 2014 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    Problem is if abbott has 4 deaths in a project. It won’t be reported. Or it will be spun. Crikey is the only news source that has properly covered this issue.

  • 33
    Chris Hartwell
    Posted Monday, 8 September 2014 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    Alan, that’s something I can’t understand either - safety of employees and training is the responsibility of the employer. The state (as government, state or federal) only dictates the levels of training required. If I direct my electricians to undertake unsafe work, and one of them dies due to a lack of training or use of inappropriate gear, that’s on me for instructing them to do so, not on the government for …. whatever it’s claimed it did or didn’t do.

  • 34
    Alan Austin
    Posted Monday, 8 September 2014 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    That is correct, Chris Hartwell.
    It seems clear from the public hearings that the Commission heard several witnesses testify that OH&S was the responsibility primarily of employers under state legislation and regulation - not federal.
    Pretty sure no witnesses testified that this was a commonwealth task.
    This seems to have been confirmed by the Commissioner’s remarks on the matter:
    “It was said, by a number of federal public servants, that the Australian Government had no regulatory power in the field of workplace health and safety, and therefore that it was not a risk that the Australian Government could control. In my view, this attitude was deplorable.”
    Note the phrase “In my view” rather than “Based on the expert testimony received”.
    This is one of a number of findings which do not seem supported by actual evidence.

  • 35
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted Monday, 8 September 2014 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    Alan Austin:

    I’ll deal with the ‘evidence’ you provided in 30 above, once I’ve had a chance to analyse it in detail.

    However, in the meantime your ability to inaccurately interpret statements in general, is on full show in your comment 34.

    FYI, in his use of the term ‘In my view’, Commissioner Hangar is confirming the fact that as the Royal Commissioner who has heard the evidence, that it is his expert legal view, that the Rudd Government’s attitude “…was deplorable”. For the record, counsel representing the Commonwealth at the RC did not object to this statement, as there is no grounds for objection.

    Once again, your complete lack of understanding of,on this occasion, Commissioner Hangar’s duty to express his expert view, has led you to believe that you’ve made a telling point.

    Nothing could be further from the truth, particularly when the “expert testimony received” as quoted by you, is your expert testimony which has holes through which one could drive a truck…and as far as I can assess, you’re the ONLY person to have made such a wild claim.

    Do you really expect that your selective, ignorant use of the facts as established by the RC, will be accepted?

  • 36
    Alan Austin
    Posted Tuesday, 9 September 2014 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Alas, Kevin, nothing whatsoever in my testimony was heard.

    More significantly, nor was anything heard from anyone who might have presented evidence to challenge the conclusion the Commissioner announced at the outset.

    His pre-determined “finding” is seen in his opening remarks here [Appendix 3]:

    My aim is to find answers to the questions unresolved in previous inquiries, put simply, what really went wrong, what made it go wrong and how can this Commission assist government and industry to ensure that circumstances like the ones we face here don’t happen again.”

    Right from the outset, Kevin, the Commissioner assumed that the message shouted from the rooftops by the Coalition and the Murdoch-led media was correct - that the scheme “went wrong”.

    His later emails and media release amplify this prejudice he had held right from the beginning.

    The scheme did not go wrong at all. It was arguably the most effective of all attempted stimulus schemes anywhere in the world. No-one I know of has identified a better one.

    But the Commissioner did not allow any testimony from any qualified witness which would have challenged the “finding” he had decided at the outset he intended to present.

    By all the measures of effectiveness the HIP was a great success. But the Commissioner did not allow such measurement, did he?

    Do you remember the first Voyager Royal Commission, Kevin?

  • 37
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted Thursday, 11 September 2014 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Alan Austin:

    None of the information you’ve provided in your latest thread answers any of the questions I’ve raised concerning your wildly skewed interpretation of the economic & social impacts of the HIP disaster you describe as an “extraordinary success in averting recession”.

    Your blue-sky view on the HIP is not supported by any of the data on the public record, the most recent being the Royal Commission into the HIP. Indeed, across the range of headings you have provided, the HIP should be regarded as the most disastrous public policy undertaking since Federation.
    As a general comment, your judgements across economic policy, statistical data & regulatory process issues – the failures of which have been well documented in the 3 independent post HIP Inquiries (the Federal Senate Inquiry Report, the Hawke Report and the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) Report) plus the HIP Royal Commission - are fundamentally flawed. Even the fact that Messrs Rudd & Garrett & their public service managers admitted under oath at the Royal Commission to widespread mismanagement & waste, does not deter you.
    You have based your view largely on the following four (4)) aspects of the 3 Inquiries & 1 Royal Commission as defined by you:

    1. None so far appears to have analysed the program’s overall costs and benefits: Industry estimates conservatively put the number of flawed HIP installations at around 80%+ of the 1.089 million homes installed in the 12 months to February 2010 i.e. only up to 20% were installed in accordance with AS3999, the bulk insulation installation standard referenced in individual State Building Codes, and NOT used by the 80% of HIP industry newbies. This means that those 871,000 homes have non-performing insulation, which reduces in situ performance by between 50 & 100%, destroying post February 2010 claims by Minister Combet that the program had achieved substantial environmental benefits.
    It also means that those installations will have to be repaired eventually at a conservative cost of say $800/job which amounts to a future cost to Australian householders of $696 million.
    Also, following the Royal Commission’s recommendations re compensation, it’s expected that the Federal Government will face claims of up to $375 million from the pre HIP insulation industry of around 300 companies, which will in turn open the floodgates for legal action by those thousands of the post February 2009 HIP investors whose combined claims are expected to exceed $600 million.
    If you add 80% of the $1.2 billion cost of the failed scheme ($960 million wasted), plus the $696 million repair bill, plus the aforementioned damages claims pending ($975 million), the total cost to consumers directly & indirectly, is $2.6 billion!!! I also understand that Australia’s 3 largest insulation manufacturers, are preparing individual damages claims which may collectively approach $100 million.
    What a success!!!!

    Also, the HIP effectively bankrupted the pre Feb 2009 national insulation installation delivery sector, causing widespread company failures & the destruction of lifetime personal savings – all due to Minister Garrett’s constant urging to industry players at HIP stakeholder meetings, to borrow as much as they could to expand the scheme. The unfortunate deaths of 3 of the 4 installers could have been avoided if Minister Garrett’s department had listened to industry warnings about the use of foil insulation sheeting as ceiling insulation, the first of which was given at the initial industry stakeholders meeting in Canberra on 18 February 2009.

    2. None has determined the extent to which it served to avert recession: You’ve quoted your own sworn statement to the HIP RC in support of your claim that the HIP was an outstanding success, in which you conflate with the HIP, without any weighting of its respective impact, the $16.2 Building the Education Revolution (BER), which was 8 times the HIP’s budget. Also, the Nation Building and Jobs Plan, which was announced on 3 February 2009, provided for the expenditure of $42 billion. The Plan included several components, including approximately $4 billion for the Energy Efficient Homes Package (EEHP). You also give no weighting to the small matter of the healthy state of the Australian banking system at the time of the GFC.
    I contend that you haven’t at all determined the extent to which the HIP served to avert recession. Maybe you’d care to weight these various elements respective importance now.
    Also, I note that Commissioner Hangar made no mention of your submission in his final report, as in most respects, it doesn’t meaningfully address the RC’s terms of reference.

    3. None has measured the lives saved and other personal, social and economic benefits delivered by its rapid implementation: Your alleged improved fire risk analysis during the HIP has been comprehensively debunked. Computations by Crikey’s Possum Comitatus (aka Scott Steele) that there was a 70% drop in OHS incidents due to the HIP are ludicrous…ref: http://blogs.crikey.com.au/pollytics/2011/04/24/the-csiro-gets-hip-to-debunking-media-hysteria/
    Have a look at StarrWinkle’s demolition of Steele’s data beginning with threads 35, 45, 85, 89 or John64 at 88, plus various other’s posters at 107, 112.
    Taken to their natural conclusion Steel’s computations say that it was safer to have insulation installed at breakneck speed by an unsupervised, untrained workforce under the HIP, than it was to have it installed by the pre HIP trained & supervised insulation industry workforce. This clearly defies common sense, as well as the statistics at hand.

    4. None has explored the extent to which enemies of the then federal government distorted and falsified claims about the program
    Which ‘enemies’ are you referring to? News Limited, Fairfax the ABC? Notwithstanding the generally accepted view that there are agendas on show in Aussie media, all the journos involved reported the facts as presented to them. They didn’t have to make anything up. If one group had an agenda against the Rudd/Gillard governments, it had nothing to do with the now established monumental failure of the HIP due to government incompetence, as detailed in the 4 formal independent investigations to date.

    Further, your statement in thread 69 above that “The successful moves the Rudd government made to clean up the industry are all on the record” begs the question severely, and shows a total ignorance of the Federal Government’s jurisdiction in the HIP. The 60 interventions you quote are nothing more than after-the-event tinkering with widespread program structural problems for which the HIP’s inept management by Minister Garrett’s department, was solely responsible. Commissioner Hangar’s following report Overview statement evidences this fact:

    1.1.34.7 The Australian Government’s reliance upon others (the States and Territories and employers) to regulate, monitor, police and enforce such occupational health and safety arrangements as might have been appropriate. Despite professing such reliance, the Australian Government never made clear to the States and Territories what its expectations were of them, nor did it
    enquire whether they had the resources necessary to act as the Australian
    Government expected.

    The Commissioner also says in his report Overview that:

    1.1.35 As with most serious failures of public administration, it is not possible to isolate one error or failure that caused all of the problems that emerged with the HIP. The causes of failure of the HIP were multifactorial. Overall, it was poorly planned and poorly implemented.

    I invite Crikey readers to view Commissioner Hangar’s overview at and make up their own minds about the Program’s ‘extraordinary success’.

    http://www.homeinsulationroyalcommission.gov.au/Documentation/Documents/ReportoftheRoyalCommissionintotheHomeInsulationProgram.pdf

    Clearly Commissioner Hangar’s independent view & the tsunami of evidence presented to the Royal Commission reflects the views of the 3 independent inquiries previously mentioned in my third opening paragraph above.

    There’s no conspiracy to mislead anyone – to say so is more a reflection on your judgement than anything else.

    I should close by saying that as for the funny smells of singed hair & burnt fingers you mention at your article’s end, the only smell I can detect is your credibility going up in smoke.

Womens Agenda

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