Interview with Tony Jones 3AW


20 December 2018


TONY JONES: This one far more important, it must be said. Because, you might recall the Andrews Government election commitment about solar panels, says it will spend at least $1.2 billion on solar panel rebates for households. They predict it could lead to at least one million Victorian homes with solar. Today, it's reported in The Australian that the federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor has written to the states about dodgy installers, and the article and the figures it's trotting out is quite frightening. The Energy Minister Angus Taylor joins us on the line now. Good morning, Minister.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Good morning, Tony.

TONY JONES: Well, first of all, could you just take us through these figures? Because, I guess if I can just put it in a nutshell for you, they're telling us that around 25 per cent - one-quarter of these solar installations are dodgy. Very, very dodgy.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah. Look, the worst of them it's only a few per cent but there are potentially issues with as many as 25 per cent. And look, we've been concerned about this for a while, not because there's anything wrong with people putting solar on the roofs, that's up to them, go for your life. I use solar panels to pump water on my farm at home. But the real issue is when an industry grows as fast as this one has, the vast majority of the installers are very good, they know exactly what they're doing, but there are some who cut corners. And we've said to the state and territory ministers, we want them to look at their occupational health and safety regulation in this area. We don't want to see lives lost. We know when you're installing things at people's homes, you've got a special responsibility. And we saw this with the Pink Batts program from Labor in the past. You've got to be very careful when you're installing things in people's homes, and this is one of those issues. You're dealing with electricity, it's high risk here, it's got to be done right. You've got to make sure your installer is accredited, knows what they're doing, and the installers themselves need to make sure they've got the right training, and all the people in their team, on the job, need to be properly trained as well.

TONY JONES: Well, with the solar panel installers, you talk about they need to be well-trained, well what is the training? I mean, is it too easy to become a solar panel installer?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, as you know, this is state and territory legislation. Every state and territory is different, but the truth is that they just need to make sure that they're all trained enough for the job. And an industry that grows fast, there's always a temptation, there's always a temptation to put people on who aren't quite ready. And it's very, very important that we make sure that everyone doing this - because it is such a high risk area - is properly trained, has the skills, is properly supervised, and delivers a good outcome. Well, we want to see lower electricity prices, we want to see good outcomes through every household, but we can't put lives at risk in the process.

TONY JONES: Okay, and lives are obviously at risk. I mean, you compared it to the whole Pink Batt debacle. Let's stick with Victoria for a moment. I mean, are we allowing, as in we - as in our government, the Andrews Government, allowing cowboys to go and put these things on roofs?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, that's a question for the Andrews Government. [Indistinct] We do the- we look at this, we go in and actually audit, houses to see whether there is a problem. The Clean Energy Regulator has been doing this for some time now. And it's clear there is an issue in- across all the states and territories. So, this needs to be looked at, it needs to be a real focus for the states and territories. Look, I raised it at COAG yesterday, this is where all the state and territory ministers get together with the Commonwealth, and I pointed out to them that they need to get on to this. We've done the work, we've done the analysis, we know there's a problem, and it's absolutely crucial, given the grades of the industry and the importance of the industry, and it's an- you know, it's a big sector now. There's a lot of good people out there doing installations, but we can't let the cowboys ruin it for everyone else.

TONY JONES: Well, why did the state ministers refused to have that on the agenda? What was the reasoning?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, you'll have to ask them that. I've written to them separately, and I raised it at the meeting yesterday. You know, look, you can't get ideological about this stuff. Some people like to get to a point where they say you've got to agree that solar panels are wonderful or they're terrible, I mean, I'm not even going to engage in that debate. The issue here is safety. The issue here is safety, and we need everyone focused on making sure in this industry that we don't put lives at risk, and that includes the installers themselves, because we saw in the Pink Batts case, it was actually the people installing the insulation where the risk were highest. So, it's very important we get this right.

TONY JONES: Alright, and, look, just very, very quickly, what's your advice to anyone, say, if I'm thinking about getting solar on my roof and I've got an installer coming out, what's your advice to me in terms of making sure it's not one of these cowboys?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Make sure the company is properly accredited, they know what they're doing and make sure the individual that is working on your house has the qualifications. You know, they are properly accredited, they have the skills, and make sure the company is sending you out someone with absolute experience.

TONY JONES: Alright, we appreciate your time this morning, Minister. And, hey just as an aside, you would have been on the Today Show from time to time and grilled by Karl?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah, look, you know, we- you know the relationship between politicians and interviewers, we love you all, Tony.

TONY JONES: Yes. Straight out of Jeff Fenech's mouth that one.


TONY JONES: Alright, nice to talk to you, Minister.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Cheers, mate.

TONY JONES: Thank you. Angus Taylor joining us there, the federal Energy Minister, and I think that advice is something that we should just write down. Just make sure, make sure it is credible, do your homework - online or whatever - and make sure that installer is not the cowboy as we've been warned about.

Minister for Energy