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Interview with Marius Benson, ABC Newsradio
4 February 2009
BARTHOLOMEW: Well, one of the biggest individual items in the Government's economic stimulus package announced yesterday is nearly $3 billion to allow people to insulate their homes. It's being hailed as a double win for the Government: good for the troubled building industry and good for the environment.
Well, to look at just how the insulation bonus would work, Marius Benson has been speaking to the Environment Minister, Peter Garrett. And he began by asking him if the insulation scheme would be means tested.
GARRETT: No, it's not means tested. This actually is an opportunity for us to insulate the Australian housing stock which is uninsulated. It'll be free. All owner-occupiers who don't currently have ceiling insulation will be eligible for free installation and supply of up to $1600 of value.
BENSON: And can I ask a question that came up in a discussion in the office here. If you happen to have insulation that might be 40 year old - 40 years old, can you tear it out and get it replaced under this scheme?
GARRETT: No, you can't. This is about houses that actually don't have any insulation at this point in time.
BENSON: And it's not means tested?
GARRETT: That's correct.
BENSON: The Greens are saying it's still just tinkering at the edges.
GARRETT: Well, look, I think that it's one of the most significant measures in what was a very significant package. And that's because experts have long recognised that installing ceiling insulation is one of the most cost effective ways that you can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and also energy bills. We reckon that there's about a 40 per cent potential for cost savings for energy bills for householders. And it's always been identified as one of the necessary planks of really getting stuck into energy efficiency as well. So, I don't think this is tinkering at the edges when you're looking at one of the most significant rollouts - in fact, the largest scale rollout of an energy efficiency measure that we will have ever seen in this country.
BENSON: And how soon will this rollout begin?
GARRETT: Well, after July the 1st all you need to do is ring 1800 808 571 and make a booking, Marius, and it goes from there. If there's insulation that's installed in the intervening period, then you'll be entitled to get provided with a rebate for that insulation that's installed. We expect the program to formally begin on the first of July. But ongoing insulation in people's homes that falls within the criteria of the program will be paid for too.
BENSON: And $2.7 billion, over what period of time will that be spent?
GARRETT: It'll be spent over four years. We're anticipating the rollout of insulation to really be intensely operating over a period of two to two and a half years. We're also providing rebates, I think I mentioned earlier, for up to $1000 for installation in rental homes. That doubles the previous commitment of the Government in the low emission plan for renters. And also, announced yesterday, ramping up the solar hot water rebate from $1000 to $1600, in other words it would match the insulation rebate, and removing the current means test on the solar hot water rebate.
BENSON: Is there a danger there that you're going to create a little insulation industry bubble, where a lot of people will establish themselves to take advantage of this and there'll be a lot of interest from customers, and two years hence, or two years after it starts, it'll all collapse?
GARRETT: Well, we expect to work very closely with the industry on the rollout. But I've noted pretty carefully what the industry said, both yesterday and today. There seems, I think, to be a very strong foundation for sustainable growth for the industry. We're seeing the insulation installers, and others, saying we can manage this program.
Yes, it is ambitious, but we need to be ambitious if we want to see, you know, free ceiling insulation in all the uninsulated homes of Australia. And that is what we're aiming to do. But I'm confident that we have the potential there to manage this. I reckon it's a tremendously exciting opportunity for local Australian manufacturers and installers.
And, of course, installing takes quite a few people to do it. It's one of those jobs that's pretty labour intensive. So, we really do expect there to be a strong employment component that goes with this energy efficient program.
BENSON: Peter Garrett, thank you very much.
GARRETT: Thanks, Marius.
BARTHOLOMEW: The Federal Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, telling ABC NewsRadio's Marius Benson that it's a win-win-win situation for the Government with that measure.