Australia’s “cash for caulkers” is “cash for shockers.” U.S beware!

It all sounds so terrific, doesn’t it? The U.S government will give rebates for money spent of reducing energy consumption in homes. As a stimulus initiative it will provide jobs for people who have suffered during the Global Financial Crisis. And it will save the environment…

Too good to be true? Yes, it is.

Australia had one of those bright ideas last year. Our government announced a roof insulation scheme which it would subsidise. So every man and his dog decided to become an insulation installer. Young men were enticed to help install fluffy pink stuff that resembled fairy floss in the roofs of trusting Aussies. The lure of big money worked wonders.

It cost the Australian government plenty, but hey, they were stimulating the economy and saving the planet at the same time.

Elderly people were door-knocked and they eagerly agreed to have their roofs seen to. Some of the inexperienced installers persuaded their customers that foil was even better than fibreglass.

Some of those installers suffered electric shocks. Some of the homes burned down. Even those with fibreglass. Several hundred, apparently. Some of the owners climbed into their roof cavities to inspect their new insulation and found they had none. Hmmm… They were the lucky ones. Others suffered electric shocks.

And then there came the news that four young installers had been killed while they were fiddling with live electric wires and staple guns. Too much stimulus. Too much unsupervised tampering with electricity by installers who had had little or no training.

Too many mistakes by a rash government who didn’t realise the dangers of throwing money at something without thinking it through.

It will now cost many, many more millions to repair the damage done by unscrupulous profiteers. The government has promised to inspect the roofs, thousands of them, of home owners who are worried about the standard of their insulation. And then there will be the claims for compensation for losing a young husband, son or brother. Four young lives lost!

I hope that the same thing doesn’t happen in the U.S which has just announced a similar scheme. I hope that the U.S will learn a valuable lesson from our disaster. Tragically, when you throw piles of money around there will be corruption. There will be fraud and there will be deaths.

The Aussie “cash for caulkers” scheme has been abandoned half-way through. There are more shockers to be unearthed and it will always be remembered as one of Prime Minister Rudd’s darkest hours.


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