Monday, February 22, 2010

Losing patience with Mr Garrett

Just ten days ago in Insulation, pressure cookers and Minister Garrett, I pleaded for Minister Garrett and his officials to be allowed time to work through problems associated with the national home insulation scheme. I have now lost patience.

The decision to effectively cancel the scheme is one of those "hard", "tough" decisions that actually inflicts great pain even on those who have done the right thing. Let me quote from a story in Tamworth's Northern Daily Leader.

David Robson, principal of Tamworth-based All Aussie Insulation, has more than $10,000 in stock, which he says will be unmovable for months, rented warehouse premises, which will be terminated, a soon-to-be-vacant rented house, and two soon-to-be-unemployed employees.

Mr Robson said Friday’s decision had left him hugely out of pocket and he couldn’t see how he could avoid shutting down the business – at least for a while.

“It was clearly a split-second decision, with no thought to the viability of businesses that were delivering the Government’s scheme,” Mr Robson said.

“Many legitimate building and insulation businesses had geared up further to accommodate demand, and have invested in huge stocks of insulation to deliver on quoted jobs that now may never eventuate.”

A builder for 30 years and insulator for 10, Mr Robson said there were some issues with the scheme, however the biggest issue was how it was being run.

“In October, they (the Government) suddenly reduced the rebate from $1600 to $1200, costing everyone a huge amount in changing advertising, administration and redoing quotes for installations,” he said.

“This time around, all those quotes and householders that were waiting for installation will disappear.

“There is no way they will be going ahead with anything for at least three months, until we know how the new scheme will look.”

Terry Barry has been selling insulation in Tamworth for 30 years and installing it himself for 26.

He told The Leader he had already advised 38 clients waiting for insulation installation to wait longer.

“I told them I would talk to them in a month, once we know what is going to happen with the new scheme,” Mr Barry said.

“I have $25,000 of stock that won’t be moving, and work lined up for just one week at this stage.”

Mr Barry said he had lost a lot of sleep over the weekend trying to work out how to keep his two employees gainfully occupied.

“I’m hoping I can concentrate on renovations for a while, although that work hasn’t been booked because the time was devoted to the insulation side of the business,” he said.

“I want to keep my boys and don’t want to tell them they have to take a week off, but it will be a struggle.”

He said the aim of the scheme was laudable, but the running had been terrible.

This story is being replicated across the country.

Oddly, perhaps not, back in January 2009 in Mr Rudd's continued New South Walesing, I commented on the appointment of three senior NSW officials to senior positions in the Commonwealth system. I said in part: 

All three Rudd appointees have been key players in these (NSW Treasury and Premier's) Departments. All three are known for their ability and hard work.

I can understand the Government's desire to appoint people that they know. My problem is that they come from a system that does not work very well and indeed cannot because of systemic problems. All three have been acculturated by that system.

This leads me to my core concern: do they have the capacity to stand outside the system, to develop new approaches, or are they going to simply reinforce Mr Rudd's existing approach? If the second happens, they will simply continue the New South Walesing of the Rudd Government.

I note that Robyn Kruk, the current head of Mr Garret's Department, is one of those three. Perhaps I was more prescient than I knew.

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