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Pink batts, a revived Federal Opposition and an election year.

February 17th, 2010 · Greg Atkinson · 21 Comments

I have not focused on the Australian political landscape for a few months but the recent tragic deaths of 4 people installing home insulation as part of the Rudd Governments spend-a-thon, has reminded me of the dangers of a government obsessed with poll numbers and popularity.

I have been a vocal critic of the way the Government has thrown around the economic stimulus money from the day they announced their plans to toss money around. Back then I felt pretty much alone as the Business Council of Australia, the Unions and most in the media for example thought that injecting billions of dollars quickly into the economy was a grand idea.

My major gripe with the economic stimulus spending was (and still is) that it was poorly planned, not targeted and would do little to help make the Australian economy more robust or productive in the future.

In addition, very little of the money spent by the Rudd Government has been targeted towards reducing CO2 emissions which they say, is causing global warming which according Kevin Rudd, is the greatest moral challenge we face. (not people starving to death as we toss away food scraps or millions dying or disease etc.)

Think about the twisted logic in Rudd’s mind for a second. On one had he says we have to reduce CO2 emissions and labels people who disagree with him as “deniers”, but then on the other hand he puts together an economic stimulus programme that will increase our CO2 emissions!

Building new school halls does not reduce CO2 emissions. Building new sports facilities does not reduce CO2 emissions. Providing communities centres with Ipod docking stations does not reduce CO2 emissions.

Building a nuclear power plant and a high speed rail link between Sydney and Melbourne would reduce CO2 emissions but well, those sorts of “smart” projects don’t make the grade it seems in Rudd’s 21st century world.

Then we have the infamous National Broadband Network which I said from the day it was announced would be a flop. Again when I made those comments various telecomms “analysts” were saying the NBN was a great idea, but now as each month passes we can see the economic viability of the NBN collapse further.

By the time they finally get just 50% of the network deployed it will be outdated and broadband wireless technology will be at speeds almost equal to, or greater than, what the NBN can deliver.

But sadly the clearest example of how reckless the government has been with our money, and the money it has borrowed that we will need to repay, has been the home insulation programme.

Tragically four people have died because the Government seems unable to carry out the most basic of risk management exercises. Peter Garrett can hide but he cannot run as they say, he sold out his principles (if he indeed had any) when he joined the ALP and now he refuses to get down on his knees and beg for forgiveness as he should.

We are told that under the Westminster Parliamentary System that Minister’s are held accountable to the people for their actions, but in Australia this does not seem to be the case. Garrett should have already resigned because he oversaw a programme that was flawed from the start.

At best Garrett has been naive in which case he is not capable enough to be a Minister or at worst, he is incompetent. Either way he should resign or be sacked and this is what Rudd should do if he has one of those things made of bone running up his back.

On a brighter note it seems we actually have a Federal Opposition now, one that can take the fight up to the Government and hold them to account. For a democracy to be healthy we need people asking tough questions of those in power. Sadly under Malcolm Turnbull that was just not happening.

I am not great fan of any politician or political party, I simply think the situation we have had over the last two years where there has been no effective Federal Opposition has not been good for any of us.

I know some people applaud Turnbull for taking a stance on the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) but please give me a break, when an ex-merchant banker defends a scheme that will set up a way for his banking mates to make a lot of money from trading carbon credits then I smell an rather large rat.

if Turnbull is so committed to reducing CO2 emissions then I expect to see him move into a smaller home, stop taking overseas holidays and catch public transport. But I suspect he hangs around with the climate change fakers and pretends he understand the science behind AGW when he actually doesn’t have a clue.

People in power with economics degrees are dangerous and should not be allowed in any debates about “real” scientific issues.

As we all know we are in an election year and to the Government’s surprise they seem to have a fight on their hands. Love him or hate him, the reason Rudd is looking somewhat rattled is because of Tony Abbott.

Abbott is now doing what Opposition’s should do and that is focus on what the Government is doing rather than fighting amongst themselves.

Turnbull is still sniping away at his own team from the sidelines and is destined to joined the grumpy old ex-opposition leaders club along with Mark Latham and John Hewson. At least we don’t hear much from Mark Latham these days but sadly John Hewson actually thinks he has something to contribute, even though he lost the un-losable election.

An election year means we will hear plenty of grand promises from both side of politics. The danger for Rudd is that people will stop believing what he says since he has failed to basically deliver much of what he promised during his Kev07 campaign.

The danger for Abbott is he is still a bit of an unknown and will be attacked by feminists, the unions and others as some ultra conservative that plans to thrust the nation back to the 1950’s.

At this stage it still looks like Rudd will be Prime Minister in 2011, but at least now he is not looking as smug as he did in the past.

Hopefully we will get some balanced and thoughtful reporting in the Australian media throughout the election year but don’t hold your breath. The only major newspaper I have seen tackle the tough issues consistently has been “The Australian”.

The others tend to go with: climate change is bad, those who question the science behind climate change are bad. Sea Shepard activists always tell the truth, Japanese whalers cannot be trusted etc.

I have found if you really want to dig into an issue you either need to search the blogosphere or if it is an overseas news story then bypass Australian journalists, because most of them simply don’t have a clue of what is really happening. (much of the international content on Australian news sites is from overseas sources anyway)

In an election year it is important for all of us to appreciate that people in power want to stay in power and those not in power want to be. These people have friends in the media and so the information we are fed is not always the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. So read widely and don’t rely on the major news outlets to provide an unbiased view of the world.

Finally I am now a certified Twit or Twitterer, so if you want to catch my daily rants or digs at the mainstream media and journalists then you can follow me at GregAtkinson_jp Hope to see you there!

21 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Senator13 // Feb 17, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    Some good observations.

    Just today Rudd has been questioning the judgment of Abbott while still backing his ministers Garrett and Conroy.

    Anyone so blind as to be backing those two has judgment issues.

    Meanwhile Rudd still refuses to even look at nuclear power even while Obama is backing the building of new plants in the US.

    It is very contradictory.

    I think it just shows that Rudd is a pretender.

    At least these things are getting some play under Abbott.

  • 2 Ned S // Feb 18, 2010 at 7:51 am

    “A Senate inquiry has been told of an alleged “gross waste” of taxpayer dollars with ineffective insulation used in up to 400,000 properties under the national home insulation program.”

    “Mr Zuzul, representing the Polyester Insulation Manufacturers Association of Australia, said he tested 20 products and all of them failed to meet expected standards.”

    “But the government said it was not going to start policing the issue and it should be up to individual home owners to make sure their insulation had been installed to code …”

    Could just the local manufacturers miffed that they missed out on the business? Maybe not, but let’s hope so.

    I don’t recall ever having a government that promises so much and delivers so little? But given their track record on what they do deliver, that’s probably a good thing.

  • 3 Greg Atkinson // Feb 19, 2010 at 6:48 am

    Ned I see there are now questions being raised about the quality of the solar panels and how they were installed as well.

    It seems pretty pointless to me to have Australian Standards that local manufactures have to comply with but then allow businesses/people to bypass you safety framework and import batts or panels that do not comply with these standards.

    I have managed the odd project in the past myself and one way most of this could have been avoided would have been via the application of common sense.

    Firstly it should have been clearly stated what standard of workmanship and materials were to be used and secondly, random audits should have been done from the very beginning!

    The only way I can see that the situation got so bad is that no one was doing any random quality checks and if that is the case, Garrett and all the staff who managed this debacle should be shown the door.

    If the government can’t handle something fairly simply like home insulation then one wonders what other spending disasters awaits us!?!

  • 4 Ned S // Feb 19, 2010 at 7:18 am

    Correctamundo Greg! As you say:

    “If the government can’t handle something fairly simply like home insulation then one wonders” …

    * An NBN?
    * An ETS?
    * Super?
    * Health?
    * Tax?
    * International Trade relationships?

    Good thing they don’t stick their noses into anything important eh? 🙂

    Just as a side note in relation to the Intergenerational Report, that reckons the solution is for us to all become more productive, some of the smarties are saying Well that’s going to be a neat trick given that there’ll be more of us using less cost effective energy.

    I think we’ll get taxed more and our standard of living will go down myself. But, I’m just a nasty old skeptic I guess? GO ASIA!!! 🙂

  • 5 Greg Atkinson // Feb 19, 2010 at 7:47 am

    Ned when I was running telecoms projects there was a thing called a quality plan. It sometimes annoyed the heck out of me because I would have people wanting to check everything from how I handled documents to how software testing was going to be done.

    But a quality plan kept you focused and made you think about outcomes. It didn’t hurt to have people prodding around checking stuff and sometimes it helped avoid some nasty problems as the project rolled on.

    However when I look at how the government is managing their projects I don’t see any quality planning. In fact I don’t even see clear objectives. Their only objectives seem to be; to spend money, keep people busy and make it through the next election.

  • 6 Ned S // Feb 19, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    The next election might be vaguely interesting after all? A few months ago I would have said it would be a cake walk for Kev and Co. Now I’m not so sure. Copenhagen can’t have helped his cause. Although a lot of voters will probably still be remembering their stimulus cheques I guess.

    On the insulation issue, I see that the law suits against the government have started. Heck, even the legal profession is getting a boost out of Kev’s stimulus program. 🙂

  • 7 Senator13 // Feb 20, 2010 at 6:03 am

    I am sure the consulting profession is getting its fair share too! And now even the TV stations are receiving $250m for nothing.

    This home insulation scheme has been a monumental failure. Garrett has to go. The list of warnings, the stories of dodgy installers just keeps growing longer every single day. If you start to see that many houses catching on fire – that many warnings received and then people start to die and you don’t stop the scheme – it is simple dereliction of duty. How do you not realise by the 20th fire that things are getting out of hand let alone the reports of dozens of electrified roofs. And where was the PM while all this was going on? Why was he not informed and if he was, why did he not step in? Surly by that point you would go “hang on, let’s just slow things up a bit”?

    Your right Ned when you point out in your earlier post about the NBN, ETS, Health ect… Makes you wonder what is hiding in that mess…

  • 8 Greg Atkinson // Feb 23, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Now we find out that minter Ellison undertook a risk analysis of the home insulation plan and installation quality was flag as an “extreme” risk.

    So actually this means Garrett is incompetent, since in project management terms he was the project sponsor and therefore it was his responsibility not only to study this assessment, but in fact make sure he was updated on the steps being taken to mitigate the risks.

    Heads should be rolling, starting with Garret’s and since Kev07 said the bucks stopped with him, he should be resigning as well.

    Or maybe Rudd means the buck stops just before it reaches him?

  • 9 Anon // Apr 22, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Well the election is over before it started!
    What horrible policy trends Abbott is showing voters. Its very extremist as Ralph mentioned about Abbott’s qualities awhile back.

    “TONY Abbott has again raised eyebrows within opposition ranks by flagging the Coalition might cut the dole for people under 30.”

    Thats pretty much election suicide. He might have the right idea, but the delivery of the policy and the way it comes across is just bad.
    Looks like another Dudd term sigh.

  • 10 Senator13 // Apr 22, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    It is a sad day when you can’t put an idea out there with out having to spin it to suit the media cycle or a political agenda. I think a lot of Abbott’s ideas have merit. The coalition just do not seem to be the well oiled media machine like the ALP.

    Rudd’s pink batts scheme sank today. The report was pretty damning and looks like there were so many red flags along the way that it is enough that all the ministers involved should be held account and either step down or be sacked.

  • 11 Ned S // Apr 22, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    I gather Abbott’s idea is to strongly encourage them to go and work in the mines? While it sounds OK on the surface, I don’t think it’s as simple as that. My take is that mines try to run tight production schedules, using costly equipment, with big money being involved when they miss or equipment gets damaged. Plus the possibility of people getting hurt if procedures aren’t followed. So they don’t sound like the sorts of places one might want less than willing conscripts? But yes, there’s merit in the real guts of the idea. But no, Abbott is not going to get a job as a salesman.

  • 12 Senator13 // Apr 23, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    I read somewhere the other day that there were 40,000 young people of working age who were not in school and not in work. That is a lot of people sitting around not doing much costing tax payers money we don’t have. So I think anything to get them learning or working is a good thing. If it is at mines or other jobs around the place I don’t see how it can hurt.

    Meanwhile Rudd is off spending more money by announcing an ‘Australian Centre on China in the World’ costing an initial $53 Million! Maybe this is some form of elaborate Covered Outdoor Learning Area! We have already wasted millions on those things – why not another $53m for good measure.

    More dodgy dealings over in Wong’s neck of the woods: This after the canning of the pink batts the other day.

    We are bleeding millions and millions with all these failures yet they barely get a mention.

    K Rudd has not had a good week with all this going on and now this also today – From memory, this is not the first time he has been fuzzy on tax. I do remember before the last election he could not name a single rate or a single threshold and this is the Government that is suppose to deliver root and branch tax reform!

  • 13 Greg Atkinson // Apr 24, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Senator oh my, so now Rudd is spending our money on his own pet projects! Surely there must be projects in Australian more deserving of $53 million than a “China Centre”!

  • 14 Greg Atkinson // Apr 24, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    By the way, I feel I might have been a little harsh on Peter Garrett if this article from The Australian is correct.

    Maybe the real villain in this whole sad story is none other than the Teflon Man – Kevin Rudd.

  • 15 Senator13 // Apr 24, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    It is a tricky question as to where the blame should be placed. In the report there was about five or six major contributing factors.

    What is worse is the cover up. If it is true that Gillard and Garrett did try and raise concerns and they were shot down – it raises a lot of question. Then as soon as it became apparent how bad the situation was Garrett was hung out to dry. To make it worse Rudd ran away to Tassy and left it up to others once again to clean up his own mess.

    With Rudd being such a micromanager control freak it is hard to believe that his finger prints are not all over this one.

  • 16 Ned S // Apr 24, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    “With Rudd being such a micromanager control freak” – You’ve got our current puss in boots boss nailed No question Senator! Ta, I enjoyed that comment. 🙂

  • 17 Senator13 // Apr 24, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    Unfortunately it looks like I am in the minority compared to the rest of the nation, Ned!

    Let’s not try and imagine another term of this… It will keep me up all night.

  • 18 Senator13 // Apr 24, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    Related article:

    To be honest – I actually think the ABC has been doing a really good job of late. Of course you get their bleeding lefty drivel sometimes but they have been doing far better of late I feel. ABC news breakfast has been very good at reporting all sides of the story and being neutral and also asking the hard questions. This particularly in relation to the pink batts. They went very hard at this issue and it was good to see. While the rest of the media were focused on Tiger Woods – they were chasing up answers in relation to the pink batts. I hope they can keep it up especially if they go ahead with a 24hr news channel.

  • 19 Ned S // Apr 25, 2010 at 5:44 am

    This is the first time I’ve paid any attention to Oz politics in at least 12 years Senator. And my impression is that the Libs don’t seem to have their act together at all. Which is really disappointing because I can’t see any good reasons for keeping the government we’ve got. Except my genuine concern that the other lot have somehow managed the very difficult task of making me suspect it’s just possible they could be even worse.

    I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m guessing that Oz is more socialist than I’d thought until recently. So for the Libs to have any chance of winning government, they know they have to pander to a lot of that type of thinking. Just part of having become so dependant on our minerals exports rather than “working” for a living maybe?

    Anyway, I’m hoping to get a better idea of just how socialist we’ve become when we see the KHR.

  • 20 Greg Atkinson // Apr 25, 2010 at 10:20 am

    What truly worries me is that the general public seems to be quite happy for the Government to toss money around (especially when it heads in their direction) and also has signed up to the “it’s alright. China will make us rich” story.

    A year or so ago I wrote about how the Roman Emperors used to hold games in the Colosseum and toss bread to the plebs to keep them happy. I sense we are seeing a modern version of the same tactic in terms of Rudd’s cash for everything campaign.

    Instead of games in the Colosseum we have grand sounding plans like the NBN, Health Care Reform, Tax Reviews and events like the Australia 2020 Summit. Instead of bread being tossed to the plebs we have cash handouts, rebates for imported pink batts and the first home buyers grant etc.

    Some things never change!

  • 21 Ned S // Apr 25, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    “China will make us rich” – That’s certainly the storey Greg. Enjoy it while it lasts I guess? Plus squirrel a bit away and try and have one’s own personal Plan B in place just in case it doesn’t, because the government hasn’t got one!

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