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Bungled batts would ‘scare’ public

October 18, 2010 Leave a comment


The number of homes found with unsafe insulation from the federal government’s bungled scheme will be kept secret because it would scare the public and ruin fraud investigations, the responsible bureaucrat has argued.

The government on Monday released an update on its progress to wind down the $2.45 billion home insulation scheme.

An auditor-general’s report last week found safety practices were overlooked in the Environment Department’s rush to roll it out.

Four deaths and hundreds of fires have been linked to the program, with more than 4000 cases of potential fraud identified.

It has left homeowners fearful of fire hazards in their roofs as well as “live” ceilings caused by foil insulation touching electric wires.

The government has either completed or arranged times to inspect about 55,000 non-foil installations and will finish inspecting foil insulation jobs by Christmas.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet and his parliamentary secretary, Mark Dreyfus, said the CSIRO and an independent consultant would be commissioned to analyse the inspection data and publicly release the results.

But data on inspections to date won’t be released as it would be skewed, as they target work by businesses linked to the fires.

Climate Change Department deputy secretary Martin Bowles was forced to defend the decision in a senate estimates hearing on Monday.

Mr Bowles said data on the foil inspections was being provided to the department and he believed “the overwhelming majority” of work was problem-free.

Releasing the information could compromise future fraud inquiries, he argued.

“It can create apprehension in the broader community and it can further do damage to the industry if, in fact, inappropriately that kind of information is out in the public arena,” Mr Bowles said.

“If in fact they are fraudulent and I start to release the information out there … it scares the horses.”

Liberal senator Simon Birmingham was “gobsmacked” Mr Bowles hadn’t brought the data, compiled by consultants PwC, to the hearing.

The numbers could be released without risking the success of future fraud investigations, he said.

“I find it astounding that in the thick folder of briefings before you, you don’t have any briefings that give us any other feedback about what these inspections have found,” Senator Birmingham said.

Mr Bowles said he deemed the “appropriate” statistics to release were those in Mr Combet’s media release.

Continue Reading at The Sydney Morning Herald

Categories: Australia