Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


"Sometimes you've got to take the hardest line ... "

The first one came to the door and knocked loudly and, when I opened it, he announced "I'm from the government," and without waiting for a reply, demanded "Where's your manhole?"

"No, you're not," I replied, "and none of your business."

These people have a verbal foot-in-the-door technique. "We are authorised to check your ceiling," he insisted.

"No, you're not," I replied, warming to the conversation. "But I'm authorised to throw you off the property."

The next one tried a similar technique. "The government has to put insulation in your ceiling," he informed me, "otherwise global warming will cause the earth to overheat." That bizarre non sequitur is verbatim. I am not making it up.

This second one had appeared at the door in about October last year when hysteria was at its highest point just prior to the Copenhagen bureaucratic jet-fest.

My friend Theo, gullible and nice man that he is, had assented to a ceiling inspection when approached by one of these 'tradesmen'.

"Sure," he had said. "There's the manhole," taking the man to the bathroom and pointing to the ceiling.

"Do you have a ladder I could borrow?" the man asked, straightfaced.


$2.45 billion of taxpayer money and 93 housefires later, the Environment Department admitted insulating ceilings was a dangerous job:
(Environment Department secretary Robyn Kruk) said the installation of insulation was inherently dangerous, and that even before the government's free insulation scheme, many house fires had been linked to poorly fitted insulation.
So why would you throw $2.45 billion dollars of 'free' taxpayer money at unqualified tradesmen to fit dangerous or sub-standard insulation to millions of houses? Well, you wouldn't of course. Only a bureaucrat would consider such folly.

Worse, the department itself had advice that warned of dangers:

The advice, which cost taxpayers $29,000, warned of serious risks including house fires and fraud.
And ceiling tradesmen who don't own ladders. But did the department pass on $29,000 worth of warning to the Minister, Midnight Oil rock singer Peter Garrett, or leave it in some dusty filing cabinet? They left it in some dusty filing cabinet, of course.
"I don't think there's anything untoward about the minister not having seen the risk assessment," (Robyn Kruk) said.


A Melbourne Girl said...

KH I've had several knocks on my door too, wanting to check my manhole...I politely said no thanks, in fact even when I explained that I'd had the place insulated just a few years ago, they tried to insist that it may have sagged and I still might need a top up. ahh, no thanks

I don't have a problem with the scheme, I do have a problem with the fly by nighters trying to make a quick buck and hiring untrained people. Where's Workcover when you need them?

kitchen hand said...

Indeed, Lesley; I had noticed the door knockers becoming increasingly aggressive in their approaches. This is turning into an absolute disaster with genuine companies going under and thousands losing work. The minister will not be minister very much longer; possibly days.

Anonymous said...

This is idle curiosity on my part. According to Wikipedia, the standard residential mains voltage is 240V in Australia, so the voltage in circuits in the house overhead is twice what we use here. Is the specific problem with installing aluminum faced insulation that the wires are uninsulated?

Steve Hendry, Baltimore, USA

neil said...

There'd be some whom would actually welcome a manhole inspection.

'I'm here to look at your manhole!'

'Ooh, you cheeky thing, come inside...'

A Melbourne Girl said...

Steve, part of the problem has been the lack of care when the foil sheets have been installed. In some instances, the sheets have been stapled down, and sometimes those staples have pierced the electrical wiring.
My hubbie is an electrician and says the first thing he does whenever he heads into someone's roof, (through their manhole) lol is to make sure the power is OFF.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Melbourne Girl.

Sounds like the authorities who write building standard should have specified that this job called for an electician as well as an insulation installer.

Steve Hendry

kitchen hand said...

Indeed, Steve - electricians were not mandated; in fact many jobs were undertaken by people who were not even tradespeople. One job was 'completed' with a six-year-old assistant up there in the rafters.

Anonymous said...

The US equivalent to this, though it didn't involve private houses, was the asbestos clean-up scam. Deaths of workers weren't as quick as electrocutions, but there were a lot of shady operators.

Not necessarily shady, but since I sent my kids to private (Catholic) schools, I got hit with two (primary and secondary) asbestos clean-up assessments.

Steve Hendry

kitchen hand said...

Steve, when governments throw money around like confetti at a wedding, out of the woodwork come the shady operators.

White Dove said...

Well looks like the Midnight Oil bloke survives for another day....Was going to have a dollar each way KH, but now he's got the Rideout woman speaking for him....

running thread said...

No one ever knocked at my door asking to see my manhole ....
I feel left out