Green Loans program scrapped, $30m compensation promised to assessors

The Federal Government has abandoned the botched Green Loans program entirely, with the initial program now scrapped and its replacement program, Green Start, abandoned just days before it was due to begin, leaving thousands of assessors in the dark.

The Government has also announced it will commit $30 million for compensation for those assessors who will now be out of work, but Aaron Neilsen, who is a spokesperson for Uncontracted Assessors and organised a number of compensation claims, says it is still unclear how this will work.

“When you divide up the amount, what you’re talking about is about $3,000 per head. And it’s not clear whether you actually get a choice of how you use that,” he says.

Climate change minister Greg Combet announced the move yesterday, saying the Green Start program, which would have been funded in two separate rounds, will now be scrapped entirely.

”There are risks with the data that we cannot satisfactorily mitigate and for that reason, among some other issues, the government has determined not to proceed with Green Start,” Combet said.

“We did not feel we could satisfactorily mitigate all the risks…. for us to safely proceed with the program,” he said.

Combet also announced $30 million would be set aside to compensate assessors. About $15 million will be used to refund 50% of tuition fees, up to $2,500 each, for assessors who enrol in a new certificate IV course before June 30, 2012. And those assessors who miss out on contracts will be given support of up to $3,000 by the end of the year.

But Neilsen says that support won’t be enough for assessors who have spent more than $3,000 getting into the program in the first place.

“It’s really the least they can do. The $30 million they’ve put aside will work towards training. But if you spent more than $3,000, there’s really no recourse for you and what you’re getting will fall short of what you’ve spent.”

The decision to scrap the plan comes after a tumultuous year for the scheme. Too many assessors were signed on to the program, meaning many couldn’t even find work, and assessors complained they could never even contact the Government department responsible for the scheme to lodge their reports.

Many home owners said they didn’t receive assessment reports of their properties for months after the original evaluation.

The mishandling of the scheme has even prompted a Senate inquiry. Former climate change minister Penny Wong even said last year that the Government had become aware of “potential cases of non-compliance and fraudulent activity” within the scheme. Some assessors were allegedly claiming payments for properties that didn’t exist.

Independent reviews of the scheme were conducted, including one from the auditor-general, that found employees in the Environment Department broke government rules and did not keep proper records.

The Association of Building Sustainability Assessors has said the decision to scrap the scheme entirely will throw the livelihood of thousands of people into chaos.

“The scrapping of Green Start will be very hard for many of our members who have invested time and resources into applying for the program but we could absolutely not support the implementation of another systematically flawed energy efficiency program by the Government,” chief executive Alison Carmichael said.

“It will be a blow for those contracted assessors who have worked hard to establish businesses delivering energy efficiency assessments to householders, despite the cap that was issued on the amount of assessments that could be conducted and the withdrawal of the loans component earlier this year.”

Carmichael also says the Government needs to come up with a new tool to help promote sustainability assessments.

“We have presented the Federal Government with a proposal for the development of this new tool which would underpin the development of a robust private industry in Australia and today’s announcement suggests that it is even more urgently needed – there is a huge job to do out there,” she says.

But not everyone is disappointed with the decision. Dewayne Money, managing director of Ecovation Water & Energy, says the program was a $120 million disaster and should have been scrapped some time ago.

“It was a catastrophe and wasn’t adding any real value. It was a waste, in the way they set it up and so on. From my perspective, the money could have been better spent elsewhere.”

“The worst decision was to scrap the actual loan component of the program, which from my perspective was the most important part. While it was the most underused component, it was the real asset.”

The Federal Opposition has called on the Government to apologise, with opposition climate change spokesperson Greg Hunt saying Prime Minister Julia Gillard needs to apologise.

“It’s time for the Prime Minister to apologise for the absolute chaos that she has caused,” he said. “They knew the program couldn’t succeed, we knew the program couldn’t succeed, and since it’s outset we said that it would fail, and it has failed.”

COMMENTS

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Close
SmartCompany Plus

Sign in

To connect a sign in method the email must match the one on your SmartCompany Plus account.
Or use your email
Show
Forgot your password?

Want some assistance?

Contact us on: support@smartcompany.com.au or call the hotline: +61 (03) 8623 9900.