On pink batts

Barbara Preston writes: Re. “Rundle: how Chris Mitchell remade The Australian, for better and far, far worse” (Friday).  Guy, you sounded like the Oz, saying that “Labor gave [the Oz] plenty of raw material [for its war on Labor], with disasters such as the pink batts campaign”.

On balance, the Home Insulation Program was certainly not a disaster, though the Oz was clearly successful in convincing so many that it was. Some facts:

  • The 2009-10 ‘Home Insulation Program’ (HIP) insulated the ceilings of around 1.2 million homes, approximately halving the number of uninsulated homes in Australia. Each newly insulated home would have had increased comfort, cut household energy bills by around 40%, and saved around 1.65 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent each year.
  • Tens of thousands of small businesses and low-skilled workers were supported through the Global Financial Crisis.
  • The rate of house fires associated with the HIP ( 0.014%) was around one third the rate of house fires associated with retrofitted ceiling insulation in the period before the HIP ( 0.047%).

Many businesses were disadvantaged by the termination of the program, but would have been caught out anyway. It appears that the industry in aggregate assumed that there were many millions more uninsulated ceilings than actually existed in Australia!

The program had problems primarily arising out of the speed of implementation necessitated by its economic stimulus function and its take-up being higher than anticipated. The substantial reviews (especially Hawke and the Audit Office) have led to significant improvements in standards, regulations and practices, especially for retrofitted home insulation and government program implementation.

The Queensland Coroner’s Findings (following the deaths of several installers) noted that the Commonwealth “considered and actioned” the recommendations of the reviews and audits, and said that “workplace safety is primarily a State Government responsibility”, and recommended a review by Queensland into its lack of response to the safety issues raised by the HIP before and during its implementation, and further strategies to improve safety when doing ceiling insulation and similar work. He also referred business owners for occupational health and safety breaches.

Happy to provide references for the above, but sources are mostly the official reviews – and a 2011 Crikey article!

On the ABC’s foreign coverage

ABC News Deputy Director Craig McMurtrie writes: Re. “Stephen McDonell on why Beijing will be the last bureau standing” (Friday). As much as we appreciate the remarkable reporting Stephen has done for the ABC in the last decade, and we respect his views on the changes in the ABC bureaus, he is incorrect on one key point.

He says the VJ bureaus in Tokyo, Delhi and Bangkok have “one VJ, no studios, no local staff, no local expertise”. That’s not right. In every one of those bureaus the ABC has retained local producers — “local expertise” — on staff. The changes in expanding two bureaus in the region (in Jakarta and Beijing) while changing three others to VJ models will not lead to a diminishing of the ABC’s Asia coverage. We will continue to provide the most extensive coverage of any Australian media organisation.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey