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About those fires…

By Judy Crozier - posted Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The Home Insulation Program of is back in the news, with Abbott promising yet another inquiry. That would make the ninth.

Such an inquiry would surely have very narrow parameters, since the Liberals wouldn't want any facts to get in the way of a good myth.

The impression, after Murdoch and the pack got through with the story, was that the Program caused houses to burn all along the length and breadth of Australia. The skies were glowing, apparently.


But is this true?

What is true was that the program was instituted hastily. After all, time and the GFC wait for no-one and, frankly, there was a crisis on. The new Labor government could either pull money and jobs out of the economy and watch the country collapse as the rest of Europe was either doing or was about to … or it could come up some big stimulus to keep the country afloat. The government did the latter, and we're still afloat.

Hence the Home Insulation Program and the Building the Education Revolution. Neither got big applause from the media, even though the BER, which continued to boost the economy for some time as projects were built and completed, has had a 97 percent satisfaction rate from the schools involved.

But back to the Home Insulation Program, where it was soon apparent that a major problem was lack of regulation, a nasty leftover from the Howard era. I personally felt the effects of that. A nice man was sent by the government to check out whether my new insulation, adding to the unsufficient insulation I already had, had been installed properly. He told me that those blokes who had come and clattered all over my ceiling as part of the Program hadn't actually put anything in the roof cavity. Luckily for many others that wasn't the case, and something like a million houses benefitted from insulation where there was none before.

And as a welcome upshot, of course, regulation was brought in and the shonks cleaned up. Headlines to this effect were not to be found.

Currently, some of those men allegedly directly responsible for practices leading to the deaths of sub-contractors during the Home Insulation Program are up for trial in Queensland. As they should be, being the ones responsible.


In the meantime, the nice man the government sent to check my ceiling, having taken down details in order to pursue those who hadn't done the job contracted for, also gave me a run-down on electrical problems in my roof cavity. These could be dangerous, he said, and should be rectified. A combination of vertigo and an embarrassing fear of hot, cramped spaces had prevented me from exploring above the ceiling, so I was grateful. And got them fixed.

All of which may provide some clues to the rest of this story.

Were houses, to continue, really up in flame all over the land as a result of the Program?

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About the Author

Judy Crozier began as a baby journalist with the Melbourne Times back in the 70s, and did some editing and writing for other small journals for a time. She's been a local government representative, a community worker, a singer and a proof reader. Now she writes fiction and some freelance non-fiction, and teaches creative writing in Melbourne.

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