Sunday, 11 December 2011

When hysteria is HIP

On this blog you’ll find a site called “The Failed Estate”.

It’s listed because it’s well-written, frequently updated, and often caustic in its criticisms of mainstream media.

The author concentrates his criticism on style and bias. He doesn’t often deal with substance.

This post is an attempt to do that – deal with substance, I mean.

The topic is the much maligned home insulation programme (acronym used is HIP).

We all know the history of this “abortive” programme. That’s the word most often used, after all, together with “botched”, or “disaster”.

For an initiative to be described in these terms, it must have at least failed in its purpose, killed many people and/or destroyed the lives of many.

Let’s look at purpose. It was designed both to save energy and stimulate the economy. How much energy it has actually saved will probably never be measured accurately, but let’s try.

By the time the programme was suspended, 1.1 million homes had been insulated. The best estimate of energy savings indicates bills of $200 per annum less for the average household.1

That amounts to roughly $220000000 (count the zeros). OK – the scheme has saved 220 million in energy costs. That doesn’t sound like a “disaster”, but perhaps I don’t understand the journalistic meaning of the word. Obviously, there’s some version of poetic licence operating here.

Did it stimulate the economy? It probably did provide jobs and encourage business growth in the home insulation industry, up until the point when the political decision was made to can it. Perhaps the government of the time should have toughed it out? If they had, the consequences of termination wouldn’t have been so severe. One rational interpretation of the history of this programme was that those shock jocks and opinionistas who screamed the loudest bear a responsibility for the result.

OK – there was a cost caused by the hot potato effect.

That brings us to the fires. Note the segue – hot potato – fire – never mind…….

National data has been kept for years identifying the reasons for fire service callouts. Prior to the implementation of HIP, fires in roof insulation were averaging 2.4 callouts per 100000 dwellings per year across Australia.2 Given the hue and cry when fires occurred, you would expect a sharp rise in the incidents of these fires post and during HIP.

You’d be wrong.

The rate of callouts initially rose to 2.5 per 100000 dwellings per annum. That’s a rise of 0.1 per 100000. I’ll leave it to those of you across statistics to determine how significant that is. But then something really strange happened. The rate of fires started to decline.

In the six months to the end of January 2011, the rate has decreased to 1.63 per 100000 dwellings extrapolated to twelve months.

Now that’s really interesting. Could it be that the publicity about the fires has alerted folk who’ve had insulation in for a while to have it checked? Perish the thought – it doesn’t fit the MSM narrative.
The most tragic element of this issue is the deaths of the insulation workers – four in all – three in Queensland.

 These deaths were tragic and unnecessary, but I can recall the language used by Tony Abbott (amongst others) at the time.  Abbott claimed that Garrett could be charged with industrial homicide.

Titans Insulation, a Queensland company was fined $100,000 in August 2011 for unsafe practices after a 22 year old employee was electrocuted at Millaa Millaa. He was killed by shoddy workplace health and safety practices, not by Peter Garrett.

So where does that leave us?

BIP has lowered energy consumption in 1.1 million homes.

It has saved $22 million in energy costs.

It has resulted in the rate of fires caused by faulty insulation to drop from 2.4 callouts per annum per 100000 dwellings to 1.63 callouts.

Maybe the only government incompetence demonstrated in regard to HIP was its early termination. And that really doesn’t fit the narrative at all…….

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