Wayne Swan to further cut the pink batt insulation program budget by a further $250 million in early December 2009. A nice early Christmas gift from the Rudd government to householders. Just weeks after reducing the rebate to $1200 (from $1600), Peter Garrett will have the unenviable task of announcing the additional budget cuts. The program was already cut by $660 million through the wind-up of the Low Emissions Assistance Program for Renters (LEAPR), a further $250 million will be saved through the rebate reduction to $1200 and a further cut of $250 million is still to come because Swan is winding back the stimulus. So much for the 2.9 million houses that were to be insulated under the scheme.

The average price of a three-bedroom home to be insulated now is $1543 as opposed to $1230 before the  commencement of the program. After forcing the price up, the government has now reduced the rebate by $400 per household, essentially leaving the taxpayer with the bill of a government inflated market price. This program will leave the industry in worse shape than which it started. No one has questioned that ceiling insulation training is not compulsory for all installers of the government’s ceiling insulation program — training is only mandatory for persons supervising the installation. They need to be tradesman, or two years’ experience in ceiling insulation industry or be trained by a TAFE. No one else requires any training at all.

Thousands  of letters have been returned to the Department of Heritage and the Arts from householders saying they have not had insulation installed. Commonwealth funding to run out by August 2010 — all $2.9 billion of it. The program was scheduled to finish in December 2011. Jobs will be lost and businesses will go to the wall as a result of the government not announcing an early close to the program 18months earlier than expected.

The government and Department of Heritage and the Arts have known about the early close of the program for several months. Price Waterhouse Cooper’s has been contracted at a cost of $15 million to oversee roof inspections. Medicare Australia is being paid $30 million to distribute the rebate to installers.

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From the 1st of January, 2010, Aboriginal organisations in the NT will be expected to comply with the new awards as released by the AIRC. Previously, such organisations have been excluded under exclusion clauses such as in the NT Social and Community Services (SACS) award. Also many orgs will be required to comply with multiple awards due to the varying nature of their business.

Transition for these orgs will be a nightmare. It is my concern that a great many Aboriginal organisations will continue to operate with no idea of the changes or consequences for breaching the new awards, and face the consequences. The example I’m most concerned about is safe houses in remote communities, which I understand are quite simple operations. Bigger and more polished Aboriginal organisations should survive the changes.

It is my serious concern that six, nine, 12 months down the track these organisations could start dropping off, with serious consequences for Aboriginal health outcomes and employment. It is my understanding that the Fair Work Ombudsman has the statutory responsibility (and funding) to educate, raise awareness etc. Two weeks ago people from the Fair Work Ombudsman agreed to do a project to address this issue.

They’ve since changed their mind. Nicholas Wilson (the Ombudsman) personally knows about the matter and chose to do nothing. These awards come into force in two months. You’re the lawyer and you’d have far better knowledge of remote Aboriginal health issues and organisations than myself. The AIRC website has transcripts of hearings and old and new awards. If you think there is an issue requiring some government attention, please do a story on it to raise the issue’s awareness.

No department will take responsibility for it.

What is happening with Sydney Morning Herald distribution in Sydney? At a time when Fairfax needs every reader it can get, deliveries to newsagents in Sydney have become so erratic that some newsagents are now leaving hand-written notes, tied with an elastic band, around home delivered copies of the News Limited newspapers apologising for not being able to home-deliver the SMH because of continuing delivery issues.

Rumours are circling inside News HQ that Katherine Keating will sue over the Sunday Telegraph story.

The spin doctors at Ray White Real Estate continued their love-in with The Age this week with the paper’s fulsome praise of a 30 properties in one night of auctions at a suburban Melbourne hotel. In what could only be described as a chaotic night — even the largely Chinese audience found the interstate auctioneer’s pronunciations of Melbourne suburbs highly amusing— the auction allowed Ray White to stage one event rather than 30 and hence significantly lower its own labour costs.

Sellers were less than effusive. Amid the confusion, prices were nothing to write home about. But, that hasn’t stopped The Age from ensuring its love affair with the real estate industry is not compromised. The all-in-one auction strategy is borrowed from Ray White’s Surfers Paradise office. I guess what’s good for the Gold Coast white shoe brigade is now good enough for Melbourne’s former quality newspaper.

Re. Yesterday’s tip concerning the Warringah NSW Rural Fire Service. It gets better. Not a week before the superintendant (paid officer) issued a blunt warning that no volunteer firefighter was allowed to raise concerns about recent uniform and firefighting equipment standards with either their local MPs (all Liberal) or the media.

Volos were threatened with the full force of “Service Standards” if they broke ranks and spoke out. Then they spring a party political media stunt on volos without telling them that’s what it was. The icing on the cake? They won’t release the details of who is getting what from the “record funding”.

Volos were just told to turn up and no promises have been made about what any volunteer brigade may be receiving.

One of the Coogee (NSW) newsagents is selling T-shirts featuring an Australian flag and the words “Speak English”. I will visit Maroubra this afternoon and look for the same shirts, camera in the bag …

I subscribe to Crikey because I believe in a free, open and independent media where news and opinions can be published that I can both agree with and be challenged by.

As a Crikey subscriber I always feel more informed and able to think more critically about issues and current affairs – even when they don’t always reflect my own political viewpoint or lived experience.


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