Did Peter Garrett get it right after all?

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Peter Garrett copped a lot of flak over the Rudd Government’s Home Insulation Program earlier this year.

There was widespread rorting and mismanagement, four workers died installing insulation and, up to 18 October 2010, almost 200 house fires have been linked to the program.

Did the program achieve anything positive?

According to this report, Tony O’Dwyer from the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research (NIEIR) reckons the scheme saved 1 to 1.5 petajoules of energy (gas) in Victoria this winter.

That’s even better than it looks because the ‘low hanging fruit’ had very likely already been picked in Victoria, given that around 87% of homes in the state were insulated when the program started. Nevertheless, the thermal efficiency of nearly 300,000 more homes across the state was improved under the program.

Now ace blogger Possum Comitatus has been burning the midnight oil to analyse the numbers. He concludes that the fire risk associated with home insulation is much safer now than it was before Peter Garrett introduced the Home Insulation Program.

Prior to this initiative, the industry did 65,000 installations per year and experienced 85 fires per year. However under the program, there were over 1.2 million installs per year and 197 fires.

Thus the annual rate of fires associated with installation of insulation fell from 1.3 per thousand installs to just 0.16. For all its shortcomings, the program nevertheless led to improvements in the industry in relation to fire risk.

The Federal Government prefers to let sleeping dogs lie rather than claim any credit for the program’s successes. That’s not surprising given this statement by Opposition environment spokesman, Greg Hunt:

It is not worth one house fire; it was certainly not worth one life. Anybody who implies that this program could in any way be considered successful should think very carefully about its human ramifications

Any loss of life is a tragedy but that shouldn’t prevent the benefits of this or any other program from being acknowledged along with the costs and the mistakes.Evidence of benefits doesn’t necessarily mean, of course, that the program was worthwhile overall – that would require a reasoned and detailed analysis of both the full range of costs and the full extent of benefits, as well as a comparison with other ways the objectives of reducing energy consumption might have been achieved.

It would however contribute to better policy-making if the Federal government were to conduct such an analysis and make the process and results public.


4 Comments on “Did Peter Garrett get it right after all?”

  1. TomD says:

    Sensationalist point scoring is endemic on the part of most pathetic ‘professional’ politicians these days and you are helpfully raising some of the consequences – issues rarely being level headedly discussed publicly in an intelligent and helpful way … with the goal of uncovering real facts or insights into the value or otherwise of anything being done (or not done!).

  2. This is something I have read too little of. I believe I’ve seen one similar article on Crikey and the rest has been virtually all bashing of the program.

    It is a pity this has been the case and that too few journalists have had the courage to speak logically and factually about these statistics as the program had a huge amount of merit.

  3. Riccardo says:

    The political system is now an empty shell so it is no wonder that non-topics like Pink batts become newsworthy.

    This was Peter Garrett, the Minister for Plastic Bags as his portfolio was gutted of anything vaguely useful, like atmospheric pollution or water volumes in rivers. This is how useful Rudd thought the former Oils man was.

    The Australian, in the ‘good old days’ could whinge about Soviet encroachment on Vietnam or leftists undermining uranium sales, now reduced to whinging about school halls or roof insulation.


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