Home Insulation Scheme

11 May 2010 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make an explanation before asking the Minister for Consumer Affairs a question about the home insulation bungle.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The minister has referred in this place to the national push for the takeover of state licensing, as well as other areas in relation to consumer protection. The unfortunate death of a number of installers of insulation under the federal government's insulation rebate scheme has no doubt caused great concern for many in our community. I understand that in South Australia installers must be licensed with a building work contractor's licence and have an additional qualification to do with building work supervision.

I note from the OCBA online publication, which I accessed on 17 March this year, that the information that goes with that application states: The application process for licensing of insulation installers has been streamlined in order to support the commonwealth government's energy efficient home package. My questions are:

1. Is the minister concerned that national consistency of trade licensing will cause the standard of licensing to be reduced? 2. Is the minister concerned that pressure to streamline licensing of installation installers for the benefit of the insulation rebate scheme has weakened OCBA's licensing powers?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for State/Local Government Relations, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises, Minister for the City of Adelaide) (14:39): In relation to national trade licensing standards generally, there has been a push to introduce a more nationally consistent approach with trade licensing. At the moment these matters are regulated by the different jurisdictions, and it is like a patchwork quilt. It is quite messy for those companies that work across borders—and many do. There are very messy arrangements and a duplication of processes.

In fact, the national trade licensing push is about identifying those trades or occupations that can be brought together under a national umbrella so that a simpler system for regulating them can be put in place. I think overall that is a very positive thing. It decreases red tape and creates a simpler and more accessible system for workers in Australia, which is good for business in Australia. It is good if trade workers can come here and easily access trade in any state or territory.

In terms of streamlining the home insulation program, which was put in place by the Australian government and which has since been dismantled, here in South Australia we were very fortunate because installers in this state are, and have been for a considerable time, required to be licensed. We have had greater regulation and control around the industry than occurs in other states. In fact, to the best of my knowledge I do not think any other jurisdiction has that form of licensing. I might be incorrect, but I think we are the only state.

It went very well when these problems started to occur with this scheme. South Australia was in a very strong position because of our tighter regulation to monitor the installation of insulation in this state compared with other states. As a consequence, fewer compliance problems were identified in this state compared with other states.

The streamlining to which the honourable member is referring was simply an administrative process to assist organisations that wanted to access the arrangements in relation to the rebate scheme established by the commonwealth. I do not believe that any of our standards were compromised in any shape or form whatsoever. It was simply an attempt to expedite the paperwork, if you like, in order to enable people to gain their licence and to access the service.

OCBA commenced a fairly significant compliance campaign in July 2009. It has monitored and scrutinised installers very carefully. A number of them are under investigation. We were very fortunate here because very few installations were made with the foil. Foil installations, which were not common practice in this state, appear to have created most problems nationally. We had very few installed here.

Indeed, I wish to remind any consumers who have any safety concerns about their insulation to contact the Office of Consumer and Business Affairs so that it can outline the steps they need to take in order to ensure their homes are safe. There is also a lot of information online.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:44): As a supplementary question, will the minister agree to bring back to the council exactly what the terminology 'streamlining' refers to in OCBA's processes?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for State/Local Government Relations, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises, Minister for the City of Adelaide) (14:44): I am happy to do that, Mr President.

Thursday 24 June 2010

In reply to the Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (11 May 2010).

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for State/Local Government Relations, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises, Minister for the City of Adelaide): I am advised:

1. Insulation installers require a restricted building work contractor's licence and building work supervisor's registration. The main measure introduced by OCBA to 'streamline' the processing of this type of application was the hiring of a dedicated officer to process these applications as a priority. This person was employed from 12 October 2009 to 12 April 2010.

OCBA commenced processing applications while applicants were awaiting their National Police Certificates or while they were completing their studies. However, OCBA did not grant licences to applicants until all documentation had been submitted and the Commissioner for Consumer Affairs was satisfied that the applicants met all licensing criteria.

Applicants underwent the same background checks as any other applicant for a restricted building work contractor's licence and they had to have completed a specific course to show they had sufficient technical knowledge. They also had to meet the same business knowledge and experience requirements as any other applicant.