Friday, February 26, 2010

Australia: "Ex-rocker Garrett demoted to 'minister for fluffy animals'"

For folks who haven't been following the anti-podal version of cash-for-caulkers here are some bullet points:

* many of the untrained workers who rush to install the insulation turn out to be backpackers and foreign students.

* four of the workers die

* they lay foil insulation that turns the ceilings of an estimated 1000 homes “live” with potentially deadly currents

* they set fire to more than 80 houses

* at least half the insulation is actually imported, stimulating foreign companies instead

* some of the imported insulation is impregnated with potentially haxardous levels of formaldehyde

* an estimated 400,000 homes have insulation installed that is so sub-standard that it’s useless

* taxpayers must now repay not only the $3.7 billion spent on the scheme, but the millions it will cost to fix the damage

The current [pun? -ed] estimated cost to fix the mess is another 80-100 million Australian dollars. The government shut the program down and will now spend A$10mil. to retrain insulation installers.
Here's the headline story from Earth Times:
Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett, former lead singer with 1970s rock band Midnight Oil, was Friday demoted over his handling of a disastrous home insulation programme. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who removed climate change from Garrett's responsibilities when taking office in 2007, bowed to political pressure to strip the lanky left-winger of most of the rest of his portfolio.

An opposition Liberal Party member of parliament joked that the 56-year-old former anti-nuclear campaigner had become the "minister for fluffy animals."

Garrett spent a decade as president of the Australian Conservation Foundation before standing in a safe Labor seat in the 2004 election. The millionaire ex-rocker has proved a better performer on stage than in parliament. He always had difficulty squaring his portfolio responsibilities with his political beliefs. "I have long been opposed to uranium mining and I remain opposed to it," he said in 2007. "I'm unapologetic about this. In fact, I'm proud of it."Just two years later he found himself approving a new uranium mine 550 kilometres north of Adelaide.

Garrett founded Midnight Oil when he was a law student in Melbourne in 1973, reaching a worldwide audience with Beds are Burning, a protest song about Aboriginal land rights in 1987. The band played at the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics in 2000, splitting two years later.

Rudd scrapped free home insulation last week after new entrants drawn to the industry by easy money left a trail of disaster in what was part of a government economic stimulus programme. Four installers lost their lives, there were 96 house fires and up to 1,000 roof cavities may have been left with live electricity connections because of shoddy workmanship.

"There's no point sugar-coating this," Rudd said when announcing Garrett's demotion. "This does mean a different range and reduced range of responsibilities for Minister Garrett. I believe it's now important for Minister Garrett to concentrate on core responsibilities of environmental protection and, of course, in heritage and the arts."
The last time I heard of Midnight Oil was last October when Beds'r Burning was covered by about sixty musicians including members of Duran Duran, Bob Geldorf (of course) the Scorpions and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Fergie and Jet Li. Here's the vid:

Wikipedia says Beds are Burning is #95 on VH1's list of the top 100 One Hit Wonders