Kevin Rudd. Photo: Eva Rinaldi

Dear editor

I’m glad to see you’ve acknowledged the Liberal Party’s fraudulent claims about my government’s Energy Efficient Homes program during the global financial crisis. However, I wish you’d shown the same level of attention to other aspects of our stimulus strategy.

For instance, you refer to the “mountains of cash handouts that went straight to Harvey Norman for widescreen televisions”. This misconception about the $900 income tax bonuses we paid to working Australians is misguided on two levels.

First, sales from department stores, such as Harvey Norman, accounted for less than one-fifth of the lift in retail trade in the June quarter of 2009, compared with June 2008. Just as pronounced were increased sales from cafes, restaurants, clothing stores and supermarkets. No evidence there of a surge in television sales as opposed to any other kind of product.

Second, so what if some Australians did head to department stores to buy televisions? Almost 1.2 million Australians were retail workers at the time, accounting for more than one-in-10 workers – higher than any other sector of the economy. Deutsche Bank estimated the stimulus payments boosted retail sales by $7.5 billion and helped save about 115,000 jobs in early 2009, including 40,000 jobs in retail.

After retail, the next highest employing sector was construction, with almost one million jobs. For them, we introduced a series of programs including supporting first homebuyers and the biggest program of social housing renewal in Australian history.

We also launched a $16.2 billion school modernisation program, which you flippantly call the “school halls” program. This very moniker is a Liberal lie. In reality, multi-purpose halls accounted for about one-quarter of projects under that program. The majority of projects funded were classrooms and 3000 state-of-the-art libraries around the nation’s primary schools – all connected to the internet.

In fact, the independent implementation review found just 332 complaints across 10,492 projects. Indeed, this was well within expectations for the construction industry on private sector projects, and “a testament to those involved”. Only a sliver of these complaints were subsequently substantiated, with the scheme delivering good value for money.

The school modernisation program alone helped support 120,000 construction jobs, including a generation of apprentices, and prevented workers with key skills exiting the industry altogether.

As your analysis of the insulation program demonstrates, there is often much more beneath the surface of partisan claims about government programs than meet the eye.

As Scott Morrison is now discovering, it’s a lot harder to defend Australia against recession than it is to snipe from opposition. If the Liberals had been successful in blocking our stimulus strategy, we would have witnessed an 18-month recession with 210,000 more Australian out of work, on Treasury and OECD estimates.

Instead, we were the only advanced economy to escape recession, with among the world’s lowest debt and deficit levels, triple-A ratings from the three major credit agencies, a stimulus strategy reviewed by the blue-ribbon economic institutions as among the best in the world.

Sincerely,

Kevin Rudd

The Hon Mr Kevin Rudd is former Prime Minister of Australia 

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10 replies on “Letter to the editor from former Australian PM Kevin Rudd”

  1. Thankyou Fifth Estate and Kevin Rudd.

    Reading both editorial items there seems conflict of facts, especially regarding the failed pink batts scheme which I summarise and comment as briefly as possible regarding.

    On myopic split systems thinking – and environmentalism’s struggle with racism The Fifth Estate – our view | 4 June 2020

    Letter to the editor from former Australian PM Kevin Rudd Kevin Rudd | 5 June 2020

    Firstly, as an ordinary person, I gave evidence on the stand to the 2014 Royal Commission Home Insulation Program regarding electrical issues, and was quoted 13 times in the final 361page report.

    Listed below are issues I believe that have failed to be addressed from the 2014 Royal Commission Home Insulation Program recommendations for insulation and electrical issues.

    My documentation of the facts is vast, and verifiable.
    i. The Federal Government spokesperson who had been briefed for 4 years immediately after the Home Insulation Program regarding insulation and electrical issues.

    ii. The States and Territory.

    iii. Standards Australia.

    I believe:

    i. The Home Insulation Program was based on recommendations from the bulk fibrous insulation industry with no consideration of the appropriate insulation types for the differing climates of Australia that guided the Rudd Government bureaucrats, and possibility of Mr Rudd himself.

    ii. There was lack of integrity, and failure to conduct due diligence in the public service.

    iii. Before the Home Insulation Program was officially started that a consultant and a Tasmanian bureaucrat alerted senior organising bureaucrats there were electrical issues that needed to be addressed for the safety of workers.

    iv. That the electrical industry, and Electrical Authorities were aware of dangerous life-threatening cabling issues in roof spaces.

    v. During the Home Insulation Program cabling issues were not correctly addressed, as per the Wiring Rules Safety switches cannot be relied on because of incorrect electrical wiring installation. It is a known fact that electrical industry and legislators are aware that Safety Switches are not reliable.

    vi. In fact, some persons failed to mention these cabling issues in sworn two Statutory Declaration documents, more so to the 2014 Royal Commission Home Insulation Program. One person finally admitted to the issues on the stand, under oath the last day of the 2014 Royal Commission, and no action taken against this person. Why?

    vii. Regarding the fire statistics stated in the On myopic split systems thinking – and environmentalism’s struggle with racism, Fifth Estate article, this is challenged by the August 2010 ABC TV 7.30 Report, Home Insulation Program, where the MFB (Metropolitan Fire Brigade) practically demonstrated the insulation/downlight, “mine field” pink batts fire issues, which caused more fires than normal.

    I conclude:

    That the general media failed to provide selected facts to the public from the 2014 Royal Commission Home Insulation Program which places their life at risk electrically and fails to protect them from the ever-changing climate as it becomes hotter.

    Should there be any actions pursed, more so life effecting electrical safety in the near future by people that have been duped by senior bureaucrats and politicians from the failed pink batts scheme, the many issues that have been withheld, will be revealed.

    1. yes…fabulous to get his attention and kind of fun to hear his excoriations of our failing to tell his side of the story of the GFC rescue in complete and intimate detail of the wins without any of the failings. Even though we did say the pink batts “scandal” was a scam…of spin-doctoring from oppositional forces.

  2. ‘BHP saving us in the GFC’ – is that irony ?

    my recollection was the mining companies ganging up with Tony Rabid against Julia Gillard to totally oppose the proposed mining resources rent tax or super-profits tax

    that would have brought a lot of money to help Australians – instead of going straight to overseas investors who already had too much money …

  3. Well done to Fifth Estate for covering a broad sweep of issues.

    However,Mr Rudd is not infallable.
    I am not discussing installer fraud, malfeasance or fires.

    During the creation phase of Home Insulation Program,Mr Rudd and his government were fully ‘captured’ by the fibreglass batt manufacturing industry, who had the inside running on constructing the Program before any other insulation related businesses did.

    The Program allowed R3.5 batts to go free (at taxpayers expense) into very ceiling of any house anywhere across the climatically diverse Australian climates.

    Put simply it was, and still is, thermally counterproductive to install any fibrous bulk nsulations into housing where incoming radiation is predominant.

    Why? As I have often said over the past 20 years, if your 4 wheel drive broke down and you had a family of four with you and no GPS, in the outback and 40degC was hitting every day, no trees, how would survive?

    If the vehicle had an aluminium foil lined tarp and wooolen blankets, what would you select to survive? The foil or the blankets. A 13 year old knows the answer – the foil which reflects about 95% plus of the solar radiation.

    Mr Rudd, why did you allow huge insulation companies to get money out of you, when the science about insulation materials has been highly contested for decades?

    Why did you let your bureaucrats tell you what to do? Why do all Ministers follow what public servants tell them?
    Where are the voices of alternate opinions, such as from smaller ibsulation companies? Where was the public interest protected in the Home Insulation Program? It wasn’t protected because you had hooked your wagon tightly to the big business.

    In fairness, Ministers cannot be expected to know everything. I gave evidence on this point to Mallesons the Royal Commission solicitors when collecting evidence.

    For proof of my facts Mr Rudd (and the current govermnent for that matter),
    take a read of a 90 page history whixh I wrote in 2019 about the insulation industry in Australia 1952-2019.
    http://www.afica.org.au
    Go to REPORTS.

    The residential building energy efficiency provisions in the NCC (also known as the BCA) where incorrectly constructed in 2003 and have a profound bias toward ridiculous levels of bulk insulation in housing (now hitting R7), which are completely unjustified and serves to prop up certain companies.

    Every governmnent is captured by big business, who effectively write the regulatory framework for commercial gain and survival.

    Mr Rudd, the intention of the insulation stimulus was justified.
    You simply didnt seek alternate industry opinions during the initial formulation phase (of legitimate economic panic) and trusted big business.Yes, and we all know where that invariably leads.

    All insulation materials must provide demonstrated thermal performance. Many dont, and the building codes board don’t care. Heat stress resilience in housing was recommended in 2013 by Univ SA, and still nothing has happened.

  4. It’s a pity Mr Rudd & his colleagues didn’t defend these policies more robustly at the time and since then.

  5. This Covid recession is part of a 1 in 100, not a 1 in 10 year event.
    That order of magnitude difference requires a commensurately larger response, as in a Covid-recovery targeted Green New Deal.
    One multi-modal infrastructure platform for that is what we’ve had kindly published in Fifth Estate and recently shared with Bob Carr in his leadership role at the Institute for Sustainable Futures, so we commend #MetaLoop to one and all.
    https://www.thefifthestate.com.au/urbanism/infrastructure/the-future-of-transit-in-cities-is-point-to-point-mobility-that-mimics-nature/

    1. Sad they can’t also save our planet, and in Rio’s case what remains of our tattered relationship with Indigenous people after their blasting of at Juukan Gorge.

  6. I wish your team was in charge now instead of the clueless idiots we have now. Rip our economy.

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