Peter Garrett and the insulation tragedies

There is no doubt total agreement that the deaths of those young workers are just tragic.

Tragic in a different way is the politicking surrounding the matter. There is a letter from another Surry Hills resident in The Sydney Morning Herald which captures my thoughts too.

Whatever misgivings I have about Peter Garrett’s performance as a minister (and there are plenty), it is clear Tony Abbott’s bare-knuckled attacking style is pointless and lacks reason.

It is very sad that deaths have occurred as a result of installing foil-backed insulation. However, the real culprits are the insulation contractors, who should have the appropriate warranties, training and insurance in place to protect installers. As events progressed, every man and his dog was an insulation installer, accredited or not.

An educated guess is that unscrupulous ”installers” employed subcontractors, responsible for their own workers’ compensation and other insurance, to make a quick buck. Bereaved families may therefore be left with no compensation. It is unreasonable to expect the government to regulate every installer. The consumer has a responsibility to check credentials.

Unfortunately, the government is now needlessly taking on ”live roof” checks at the expense of the taxpayer. One can only hope that one day personal responsibility on the part of installers and consumers will prevail.

Nick Woolfenden Surry Hills

Jim Belshaw has been very wise on this matter. See Insulation, pressure cookers and Minister Garrett and Cogito Ergo Est – I think therefore it is.

Obviously we need to understand what went wrong, how it might be corrected, what we have learned for the future. However, I feel in this case we need to cut some slack for Minister Garrett and his officials, recognising the circumstances of the time and the pressures they were under.


Listening to the radio discussion this morning, I know that I am not going to win this one. To fully support my argument I would have to take a multiplicity of issues and show how they fitted together. Ah well!

Having had a father and a brother in the building trades I know just how slack some subcontractors can be, not to mention some builders. Sure this is a matter for regulation, but it also reflects more personal issues out there of corner-cutting, greed and bottom-feeding ethics. The Australian small business operators involved, and consumers, need look no further than the mirror to find the real problem here. Governments, however, also need to be more realistic in their expectations. Waving a wand in Canberra is not enough.  The way policy is delivered needs much more careful planning.


One thought on “Peter Garrett and the insulation tragedies

  1. Look at How do you Sleep while your Butts are Burning? by Helen, Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony14 Feb 2010.

    …Gosh, it’s touching that the Liberal party has suddenly discovered workplace deaths in the building industry. When they were in power, those despised Unions were constantly trying to tell them. About forty people a year, more or less, die in Australia every year. Are the other thirty-six people who died in Australia in the last year chopped liver, just because they don’t come with a Ministerial scalp? I don’t hear any outrage in doorstop interviews about them.

    The four people (some of them boys) died for the usual reason: because their employers ignored occupational health and safety practice (as well as ordinary common sense). The employer of the worker who died in October could possibly claim ignorance about the metal fasteners used with metal foil insulation close to wiring. The others couldn’t, because Garrett didn’t do nothing: he moved to ban the fasteners in November. Two more workers died as a direct result of the employer ignoring a new regulation which Garrett himself had put in place, as well as one from heat stroke, again the employer’s responsibility. To quote one commenter, the responsibility to run a safe workplace lies with the employers.

    Now we have the Liberals shouting that Peter Garrett should have micromanaged the scheme to the point of overseeing every employer, perhaps, I don’t know, climbing into every roof space himself. This is the same Liberal party mainly composed of people who see every government regulation as a slippery slope to socialism. This is the Liberal party whose constituency is business groups which oppose industry regulation as “anti-business”….

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