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The CSIRO gets HIP to debunking media hysteria

The CSIRO last week released what was effectively a statistical analysis of the reality surrounding large parts of the infamous Home Insulation Program – or for those of you not familiar with this particular policy, you may have heard about it via it’s common alternative name in the mainstream media, the “OMG, PETER GARRETT IS BURNING DOWN OUR FUCKING HOUSES!” policy.

As we here have long known and talked about, the reality of the Home Insulation Program was always vastly different to its hysterical media portrayal – driven as it was by naive and innumerate journalists looking for easy sensational headlines, and partisan hacks prostituting their cheap wares before a gullible public. Having a cowardly government lacking the plums to tell them all where to stick it was another unfortunate sub-plot in this tale of public deception about the reality of a substantial piece of public policy.

The CSIRO report covers three large areas – analysis of fire related incidents, broader safety risk issues relating to the insulation program and the development of a risk profiling tool. Today, we’ll just focus on the fire related incidents component, as we’ve long been following this particular issue in depth and it’s nice to be able to bring it to a close, flip the bird at our detractors and exit the battlefield under a big banner saying “We told you so” :-P

The first thing that needs to be done is explain what the CSIRO *didn’t* do. They *didn’t* answer the elephant in the room question: “In the 12 month period after having insulation installed, was there a difference between pre-program and in-program probability of having an insulation related fire incident?”. They provided all the data we need to get an estimate of it, they made a sort of assumption about it, but didn’t actually attempt to tackle that important question head on.

We will.

This question is important because it tells us whether the Home Insulation Program was safer or more dangerous in terms of fires than what existed before it over the short term – over the first 12 months of having insulation installed.

The second thing the CSIRO didn’t do was provide long term background fire rates (the number of fires we should expect to see every year from all houses that have had insulation installed for longer than 12 months) that allow us to answer the questions *we’ve* been asking. They’ve provided background rates that answer a lot of different questions, that answer a lot of questions other people may have been asking, but not the ones we have. This is a simple methodology issue which we can easily deal with since the CSIRO kindly provided in the report all the data we need.

To get a feel for what actually happened, it’s worth looking at the strong relationship between when the fire incidents under the program occurred (defined as houses which had the fire services called out to them over what turned out to be an insulation related fire) and when insulations were actually installed. This data comes from Table 5.1 on page 30 of the report (click to expand)

As the number of installations increased during the program, the number of fire incidents increased with it, before those fire incidents trailed off on an 8 to 12 month tail after the installations had ceased. This is important because it shows us straight away that most fires happened relatively quickly after insulation was installed. To really highlight this relationship further, if we change this data from a chronological month by month representation into one where we measure how many days insulation had been installed, for every fire incident under the program, this is what we get:

This data comes from Table 5.2 on page 32 of the report. I’ve aggregated it into 10 day periods, except for the first observation which covers 11 days (days 1 through 10 plus what the CSIRO reported as the zero day, the same day of installation) .

Of the 156 fire callouts that occurred under the program (note – not the “hundreds” as some media outfits would have you believe, but 156), 43% of those fires occurred within 10 days of having the insulation installed.

After that, the fires dropped dramatically and continued to reduce as a function of time. The reason for this is fairly obvious – if your insulation was sitting on top of, say, a poorly installed downlight with no thermal cover (for instance), the insulation would ignite as soon as the light was left on for any decent length of time. Most things that could catch fire, would catch fire at the earliest opportunity.

An easy way to highlight this reality further is to chart the proportion of all fire related incidents under the program that had occurred after X days of insulation being installed (click to expand):

That tells the story on the distribution of fire related incidents as a function of time. It tells us that the short term fire rate is much larger than the long term fire rate, simply as a result of most of the stuff that *can* burn, *does* burn and burns early.

This sort of distribution has an important consequence when it comes to directly comparing what went on before the Home Insulation Program and what went on during the program in terms of the probability of a fire occurring.

We don’t know (yet) whether the pre-program insulation manifested the same type of distributional behaviour, but because of what we witnessed during the program, we would it expect it to. We would at least expect some *similar* dynamic to have played out in the pre-program insulation numbers. It certainly suggests that we should attempt to find out.

Fortuitously, the CSIRO report provides us with the data necessary in Table 5.5 on page 36 of the report. Here they used data from the Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities Council to show us how many fire callout incidents were recorded each month between March 2007 and December 2010 for *both* buildings with insulation installed pre-HIP *and*  for buildings with insulation installed under the Home Insulation Program.

As we know from the HIP data, most fires that happen as a result of getting insulation installed happen relatively quickly – and certainly over the first 12 month period of having such insulation installed.

The Home Insulation Program was announced on the 9th February 2009. So if we take an annualised fire incident rate for insulation before February of 2009, that annualised rate will have two components – the short term rate (fires that occurred from the insulation that was installed within the previous 12 months) *and* the long term rate (the fires that occurred from the rest of the “insulation stock” older than 12 months).

We know that 65-70K installations per year was the medium term norm in Australia (both from the CSIRO report and the Senate estimates hearings on the matter). That’s about 5800 installs a month (taking the 70K a year figure), every month, going back before the fire incident data in the CSIRO report started.  We also know that from March 2010 onward, there was no pre-HIP program insulation left in Australia that had been installed in homes for less than 12 months.

If we take the annualised fire rate for homes where insulation was installed pre-HIP from March 2010 onwards, that fire rate contains only one component – the fire rate for pre-HIP installations older than 12 months.

So, just looking at the data for houses where insulation was installed before the Home Insulation Program, if we subtract the annualised fire rate for those homes from March 2010 onward from the rate for those homes from January 2009 and earlier, we cancel out the long term rate component (which we assume would be the same for both periods – there’s no particular reason why they would be significantly different) and end up with the short term rate for the pre-HIP installations.

That then let’s us compare the short term rate pre-HIP to the short term rate during the HIP.

We know from the CSIRO report (page 37) that as of March 2008, there was approximately 4,273,000 homes with insulation roof insulation installed. We know that during previous years, around 70,000 installations were made per year, which equates to around 5833 per month. If we take the March 2008 figure as the true level of stock, then adjust on a monthly basis both forwards and backward through time by the 5833 per month level, that gives us an estimate of the number of houses in Australia with insulation installed for each month – our “stock”.

The “Fire Callout Incidents” column has the number of fire incidents that occurred in each month.

The “Annualised Fire Rate per 100,000 houses per year” is the number of fires divided by the number of insulated houses multiplied by 100,000 (to give us the rate per month per 100,000) then multiplied by 12 (to give us the annualised rate). This tells us for every 100,000 homes with insulation, how many fire incidents there are per year.

If we take the average of this rate for the 23 months worth of data, that tells us that the average fire rate occurring (that consists of both the short term and long term components mentioned earlier) was 2.83 fires per 100,000 homes with insulation per year.

If we do the same for these pre-HIP houses with the March 2010 numbers onwards – the period where all pre-HIP insulation is older than 12 months, we get:

So the difference between the two rates is 2.83-2.06= 0.76.

Adjusting for the 100,000 factor rate and multiplying it by the estimated pre-HIP stock gives us a number in terms of fires, which is 0.76 x (4,328,333/100000) = 33.1 fires

So there were an estimated 33.1 fires that happened in the pre-HIP program each year from insulation installed for less than 12 months.

As there were approximately 70,000 installs undertaken each year pre-HIP, this gives us  (33.1/70,000)*100,000 = 47.3 fires per 100,000 homes per year as the short term pre-HIP fire rate.

This is the estimate of the number of fires per 100,000 houses with insulation less than 12 months old we would  expect to see under the pre-HIP insulation industry.

If we compare that to the short term rate for the Home Insulation program, we can do it two ways. First, simply divide the number of fires that occurred within the first 12 months (153 to 154 fires, we’ll be generous and call it 154) by the number of installations (1,108,151) and multiply it by 100,000 to give us the comparable rate, we get:

(154/1,108,151)*100,000 = 13.9.

Alternatively, we could utilise the annualised rates over the first 12 months (as we did for the pre-HIP data) using the data from Table 5.2 on page 32 of the report to end up with around 13.1.

So let’s be conservative and use the larger rate.

The number of fires per 100,000 installs that occurred within 12 months of installation was 47.3 before the Home Insulation Program and 13.9 during the Home Insulation Program

The Home Insulation Program reduced the short term fire rate by approximately 70% compared to what was happening before it.

The Home Insulation Program was over 3 times safer than the industry it replaced in terms of the numbers of fire experienced within 12 months of getting insulation installed.

Now, what about the long term fire rates – the rate of fires we expect to occur from insulation stock older than 12 months?

We’ve already figured it out for the pre-HIP insulation – 2.06 fires per year for every 100,000 houses with insulation installed.

What about the long term rate for Home Insulation Program?

Since not all of the insulation installed under the Home Insulation Program had been in the ceiling for longer than 12 months when the data was collected, we have to take note of the number of fires that occurred and the number of installs that were older than 12 months at the time. Thankfully, the CSIRO did this for us in Table 5.2 on page 32 or the report. Again, we follow their advice of:

We’re after the data that matches the “has been installed for 351-400 days” or longer (the best estimate available for greater than 12 months), which looks like this:

So the long term rates for the post-12 month period is already starting to average around the 0.66 fires per 100,000 houses installed mark, compared to the 2.06 fires per 100,000 houses installed that we see currently from the pre-HIP industry installations. Again, the Home Insulation Program appears much safer than what it replaced in terms of the number of long term fires.

This differs from the CSIRO’s long term rate because the CSIRO didn’t measure post-12 month rates in and of themselves, but deployed a methodology that measured a different thing entirely (and answered a completely different set of questions in the process).

Their current rate estimates accommodate fire rates from previous months into the calculation of each subsequent period. They used a model where, as you can see on page 33 of report (reproduced below) the forecast of the model (the blue line) is already out of synch with the most recent 3 aggregated observations covering over 35% of the time period of the entire sample (click to expand)

However, even by that methodology and its reliance on curve fitting, the CSIRO estimate that the forecast line “flattens off to a value of 1.1 per 100,000 per year” – still only half of the long term rate we see happening currently with the most recent available data for houses insulated before the Home Insulation Program ever saw the light of day.

Ultimately, the HIP – as we’ve stated from the beginning, regularly, using publically available data at the time – was much safer in terms of fire rates than what preceded it. Now, however, we know that it was safer over both the short term (the fire rates over the 12 month period from installation) as well as the longer term (the residual long term fire rates that occur from 12 months after the insulation was installed).

There’s plenty that could be said about the widespread and pathetic excuse for journalism that was involved in the coverage of the HIP program – but what else is new?

Much of News Ltd – particularly that shit sheet The Australian – not to mention the entertainers pretending to be informed commentators that live under the bridges of talkback radio, had their heads firmly embedded up their own sphincters . But again, what else is new?  Their silence on the report is pretty predictable. An under-qualified media will continue to give us under-qualified policy analysis, leaving them regularly stranded on the wrong side of reality when it all comes out in the wash. Eggs, faces and no real surprises.

The sad part here is that a significant proportion of the public will also be left stranded in a fictional world, at least as far as those who have the not unreasonable expectation that the people informing them about political reality are actually up to the job.

But the fault lay not at the feet of those with reasonable expectations of the fourth estate, but with those that have proven – time and time again –  that they cannot live up to providing for those essentially reasonable  expectations.

Which, thinking about them,  reminds me of a song actually (NSFW)

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  • 1
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    Well they are also busy saying that one set of law breaking in the refugee arena is failing so we must take a harsher law breaking position.

    there is no real media in this country, just lazy hacks.

    They haven’t even noticed that houses are not burning down in the hundreds of thousands as they thought they would and that the houses are perfectly safe.

  • 2
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    Great work Poss. Unfortunately it takes more than 30 seconds and a bit of analytical thinking to understand.
    That is an unlikely event in the case of the pathetic excuse for journalism that currently exists in the MSM.

  • 3
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Possum, that is fantastic work. And, yep, cretinous coverage of a sound environmental measure. We had it done- no fires- rats warm up there and us snug down here.

    I wonder if we will ever hear how much energy has been saved via the batts installation and how many homeowners have been made aware of electrical dangers in their wiring that had nothing to do with insulation.

  • 4
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    With apologies to Edward Albee, Who’s Afraid Of Possum? I want every “informed commentator” to stand up and give the punch line.

  • 5
    Harry "Snapper" Organs
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    Poss, I hope you’ve sent this to Andrew Leigh, Wayne Swan, Penny Wong and Julia Guillard. Oh, and Mr. Bolt, with a complimentary calculator.

  • 6
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    Yep Poss. This one program is a microcosm of all that was wrong with the Rudd Govt, and what passes for policy analysis in this country’s media.

    Rudd gave up on it when he should have been boasting about the bloody thing. The media kept the narrative going because:

    a) they didn’t have the skills to work out it was wrong
    b) they didn’t have any desire to change it, and
    c) the Govt was telling them the narrative was correct.

    so many failures except the one thing that was not actually a failure – the policy.

  • 7
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    Possum when is you next election simulation coming out???
    Or polly trends??

  • 8
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    or Carbon tax data?

  • 9
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    Bias, Pollytrend comes tomorrow. Simulation in June.

    Don’t know about carbon pricing, but it might be a nice idea to go over recent public opinion history

  • 10
    Gorgeous Dunny
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    A superb analysis once again Possum. The whole sorry saga never fails to make me angry. If living proof is needed of the Lindsay Tanner analysis on the media sideshow it is in the way that the HIP has been played out.

    One of the most positive programs of the GFC measures which kept this country afloat was this very program. It not only provided business, employment and consumption while most other things were heading south, it is a major benefit in the changing carbon world.

    We are bound to cop dearer home energy costs with or without carbon pricing. My own home estimates on fuel used since installation are:gas -35%; electricity -25%. If my net consumption is that much less (apart from reducing carbon dioxide on that), the increased tariffs being charged are largely offset.

    Having a cowardly government lacking the plums to tell them all where to stick it was another unfortunate sub-plot in this tale of public deception about the reality of a substantial piece of public policy.

    Sadly, that sums up how the government handled it. Running away from good policy is never a good strategy. And it was the second one after walking away from carbon pricing without any coherent explanation. It is probably the reason confidence in Rudd collapsed, both in the public and caucus.

    The irony is that Abbott only took on the issue at all as a desperate attempt to shore up support among his own side. It gained traction with a lot of help from News Ltd and the ineptness of the government response. Oh for a Clyde Cameron or a Fred Daly, even a Mick Young or Paul Keating to put this nonsense in its place.

    The way the frivolous media cycle runs and its influence on public perception means that the facts as shown by you and the CSIRO report may never be known to the wider audience. However, a Senate inquiry after July into the whole sorry episode might salvage something from this mess.

  • 11
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    (Gorgeous Dunny, are we related? LOL)

    What I don’t get, still, is why Rudd rolled over to the confected outrage that Murdoch’s press was spewing out. And why he didn’t see that not standing up and fighting was to leave him and Labor forever tainted with ‘incompetent’ and ‘wasteful spenders’. It sure won’t wash off now.

    OK, the story was a bit complex, but you can’t tell me that no one in the government was capable of telling it; they didn’t even try to.

    They came to be seen as a government that ‘believes in nothing’, not even themselves. It really did not have to be like this.

  • 12
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    You’re a diamond geezer, Poss. More strength to your calculating arm for the future. :)

  • 13
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Are there any figures for who did the installing prior to HIP? I would suspect there is a difference in risk from a DIY vs 3rd party providers.

  • 14
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Poss.

  • 15
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Poss that is a wonderful summary, congrats on putting it so simply, agree with the comment shold be sent to the relevant ministers and of course Dear Andrew Bolt

  • 16
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    I think I feel very very annoyed

  • 17
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    I think the point of the pink batts scheme is this.
    Gillard etal spent billions of dollars to creat an artifical industry and then killed that same industry.
    At the end of the day it probably made employment worse as people were diverted (not trained) from other professions and then made unemployed not to mention all the back orders

  • 18
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    It was just one of the first examples of how this government is incapable of thinking through policy.
    The other point is this….
    Safety aside most jobs were a few batts thrown into the ceiling.. safe or not it was a gross waste of tax payers money. I paid a lot of tax and that made me angry!
    (I am since trying to avoid as much as possible due to the waste of this government)
    I now think of
    Flood TAX
    Means testing baby bonus (cost me again)
    Mining TAX
    Carbon dioxide TAX
    all because of waste (not to mention BER rip off)

  • 19
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    And now Swan says the mining boom is hurting the budget!!!!
    (I think its is Gillard etal that is doing that!)

  • 20
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    and then killed that same industry.

    The industry wanted it closed down. My take is that the industry regulars were miffed that the blow-ins were taking THEIR money.

  • 21
    Gorgeous Dunny
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    Posted April 25, 2011 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    (Gorgeous Dunny, are we related? LOL)

    Probably not, Christopher. Mine was taken from an old nickname given to Don Dunstan, my all-time favourite hero (albeit this might be changing – I’m reading a bio of Ben Chifley and am truly amazed at what he achieved, and with such grace).

    But I am at one with your views.


  • 22
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    Jeeze, who let the troll in?

  • 23
    Sgt Pepper's Bleeding Hearts Club Band
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, we should stop wasting money on building stuff and collecting money through taxes! And also, what’s up with placing a limit on the wads of cash we throw at rich people? Stop wasting money and give me handouts, damn it! Raaar chest thump etc.

  • 24
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    Houston, we may have a problem.

    Quote, “fire incidents under the program occurred (defined as houses which had the fire services called out to them over what turned out to be an insulation related fire)”

    OK, so for the HIP fire rate we are counting fires which were determined to be caused by insulation. If the oven burned the house down the fire wouldn’t be counted. (unless the installer stuck insulation inside it, give their qualifications not entirely implausible)

    Moving forward, we calculate the fire rate for pre-HIP insulated homes.

    “The “Fire Callout Incidents” column has the number of fire incidents that occurred in each month.”

    Is this counting fires which were caused by insulation or ALL fires? If it is the latter than we’re comparing apples and oranges and would expect the pre-HIP rate to be significantly higher (most fires are likely caused by candles, smoking etc not insulation).

  • 25
    Kristi Bleu
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately none of these findings should be a surprise to anyone with a finely tuned bullshit detector (which is sadly lacking in many of our well paid journalists) though kudos for do the background analysis.

    The only criticism I have is the focus on the media hysteria of News LTD and talkback radio only. Fairfax publications such as the Melbourne Age were equally culpable with such inflammatory language as “home insulation debacle” and “Garrett is both responsible and to blame” and “Peter Garrett’s grim defence of his feebly administered home-insulation scheme”.

    I also thought the Age reached an all time low when they drew a distinction with how Garrett must be feeling given the symmetry of being responsible for a scheme that led to house fires and deaths by electrocution when he had once attempted to save his own mother from the burning family home!

    Even freedom fighter Bob Brown got caught in the hysteria moving a censure motion against the Government for “its gross and systematic failure in the delivery of its climate change programs” with the Home Insulation Program at the top of his list.

    If we are to expect a better class of politics and policy we then need to hold the entire cross section of media outlets accountable for the quality of their analysis. This level of scrutiny should also apply to our sanctimonious politicians, otherwise we might find ourselves bemoaning the loss of a true conviction Minister such as Garrett who has demonstrated that fighting for the cause by actually delivering sound public policy is much more important than scoring cheap political points or worrying about defending the reputation of the Peter Garrett who once wrote the slogans on the walls.

  • 26
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 1:33 am | Permalink

    Yes they are insulation related, just looking at page 36 ;-)

  • 27
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    Star, that page 36 – gets you every time! :-P

  • 28
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Means testing baby bonus (cost me again)

    Sorry, but those of us on lower incomes than you can’t afford to support your kids anymore.

  • 29
    Gorgeous Dunny
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    I now think of
    Flood TAX
    Means testing baby bonus (cost me again)
    Mining TAX
    Carbon dioxide TAX
    all because of waste (not to mention BER rip off)

    That’s the problem in the opening. You’re not actually doing much thinking.

    Those other TAXes haven’t hit you yet. You said not to mention the BER rip off, but I’m afraid I must – simply because it was not a ripoff. The only thing that was, was The Australian’s campaign about it.

  • 30
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Thanks for this analysis, Possum.

    A funny thing – I have shown it to others I know who have thrown MSM articles at me decrying this scheme (as well as other of the stimulus programmes), only to have them give me the reply of “lies, damn lies and statistics”! To point out that the so called jounalists that they get their facts from used flawed methodologies and skewed reasoning to come to the editorially required partisan point seems to be irrelevant.

    It seems that we have a long way before the lazy public will do themselves the service of not blindly accepting as truth the biased, poorly written and innacurate rubbish that pass for jounals of record in our wide brown land.

  • 31
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    Why the anger “biasdetector”? – thanks to the stimulus spending (which you ungraciously and wrongly call a waste – eg BER – 2.7%), Australia steered itself out of recession. Well, go on, applaud our erstwhile federal Labor government for saving our bacon! Because if we let the Libs spend the same amount of money at tax cuts skewed to rich people (which was how they were going to tackle the GFC – lets not forget), the money would simply have sat in their swollen wallets and bank accounts instead of stimulating the economy and we would have been in recession. Yes, that’s right, recession. Oh, but of course, spending money on tax cuts for wealthy people is never a waste of money I hear you say?

  • 32
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    I would like to provide, free of charge, a template inspired by Possum’s story that can be used for any review of any story in the Australian media.
    Here it is

    xxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx the media’s reaction was hysterically innacurate.

  • 33
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    @Jean: ok, but when has Poss ever been wrong with that template.

    Now, to more general comment. Arbib the traitor has shown his true colours once again – stating that John Robertson should follow (Arbib’s implied hero) Tony Abbott’s model of Opposition leadership. You look at the figures above, adn you look at the successes fo the Rudd govt and you compare it to the screaming lunatics that are running the asylum now, and you wonder why anyone ever listened to this snivelling grub in the first place.

  • 34
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    From the glossary, page 11,

    “Terms used in this report
    HIP2: This is the second phase of the Home Insulation Program. It commenced on 1 July 2009 and made allowance for insulation installers to claim a rebate directly from the Federal Government. The program prior to that date (Phase 1) only allowed the householder to claim a rebate from the Government after paying the installation company directly. The analys and results reported here apply only the second phase of HIP.”

    So they restricted their analysis to the second phase after where problems were identified and actions was taken to mitigate them. The second phase also put brakes on the installer cash grab so the incentive to roll out rushed installations had reduced.

    Why only the second phase?

    And Possum your long term rate is 0.66 and the CSIRO has 2.5, that’s a big difference! And I wouldn’t say are answering a “completely different set of questions”, they are determing the same rate but have used the curve fit method. Given the the low sample counts in the longer term it would seem the curve fit would be preferred as it incorporates the period where samples are more frequent and we observe greater convergence. The graph itself shows us that the frequency for HIP installations post 12 months takes a sudden drop at the 12 month mark, there’s no reason to believe the real risk suddenly drops so drammatically at that point – insulation isn’t time aware!

    Truth is as you identify it’s the short term rate which tells us the fire risk of the original installation, fires due to bad installations in almost all cases will occur before 12 months.

    That table on page 36 avails us an easy calcucation which tells us _one_ short term rate for pre-HIP. They have a category “Recent” which is defined where the installation is newly installed “presumably in the previous few days”.

    That gives us a total of 13 over 46 months, not many (per 70,000). But, they state this is believed to be under reported. They take a short to long ratio derived from the HIP data which is deemed to be more accurate and then apply that to the pre HIP data. So they’re deriving an assumption from the dodgy program’s data and applying it back to the non-dodgy program’s data.

    They don’t provide the data necessary to calcluate an accurate short term rate for pre HIP installations, but does anyone honestly believe the cowboy installers were doing a better job than normal experienced installers?

    Reiterating, all these figures IGNORED the first cowboy phase of the program!

  • 35
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    So according to Possum Logic™, having insulation installed (or not installed as the case was with some installations) by untrained, inexperienced over-night operators who were “not compliant with building regulations” or the “HIP guidelines” is /less/ of a fire risk than having insulation installed by a trained, fully qualified individual with over 10 or so years experience.


  • 36
    William Conroy
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    An excellent analysis Possum, I have always maintained that Kevin Rudd should have slam dunked Abbort when he accused Garrett of industrial manslaughter in Parliament but he did not, strike 1.

    Then he followed up with a mea culpa on onesiders after demoting Garrett, strike 2.

    He should have counter attacked Abbort over deaths in hospitals during his Health minister tenure, but failed on both accounts, gave Abbort airtime strike 3
    and IMHO he went downhill in the polls from that moment. NOW Julia needs to shout this report to all and sundry and PUSH the court cases against the insulation death victims employers asap.

  • 37
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    I have 100 revolver hand guns. 5 are chambered with a bullet and 95 are not.

    We hand the guns out to guinea pig volunteers and ask them to play Russian Roullette with themselves, spin the barrel and take a shot.

    We found that the short term mortality rate of this exercise was quite high, in fact 4 % of participants had died in the first hour. Our > 12 hour rate however was 0, no participants were dieing after > 12 hours of clicking.

    In another exercise we handed out 100 unloaded guns to volunteers and got them to do the same thing.

    In this case we also found the > 12 hour mortality to be 0.

    We conclude that in both cases the long term risk to be equivalent and miniscule hence people should not feel that playing Russian Roullette with loaded guns is any less safe than playing Russian Roullette with unloaded guns.

  • 38
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    You’re a complete moron, Possum.

    In this tale of “…public deception about the reality of a substantial piece of public policy”, you’ve managed to leave out, how I don’t know, that this poorly delivered Home Insulation Program, has:
    1. wiped out /bankrupted an industry & its 3000 full time jobs overnight.
    2. Cost $1.5 billion tax dollars for no apparent benefit.
    3. left the 300 re HIP companies with a $500 million dolllar debt.

    & about 4 other major negatives.

    You’re bigger dimwit than any News Lts journo…what a dimwit you are.

    Apologise..or resign your post.

    Based on this pathetic performance, I would give a sports sub job on the Wangaratta Times

  • 39
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    How unfortunate that labor only cancelled this program based on the number of deaths they were responsible for. If only they had kept it up they could have had far more deaths on their hands.

    Let’s not mention the massive rorts and non-installation of insulation…because a labor initiative should be instigated no matter how crap it really is.

    The poster above me is more than correct. Your blinkers are narrower than News Ltd but that is expected, because you are not a real journalist. You are an apologist

  • 40
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    I see this post has brought the best of humanity out. The three recent posts 38 – 40 illustrate perfectly how some are never bothered by facts, reason, or sense. The numbers simply don’t lie.
    Could the implementation of the HIP been better handled – definitely but would it have got the $ out the door which was the point, probably not as well.

    I bet the real issue of some complaining about wasted taxes is that they didn’t get to try to rort the system.

    Obviously the Howard attack on education is paying off!

    Great analysis, Poss you are are great exponent of the science & art of data analysis. Those attacking your numbers probably failed remedial math in 3rd grade.

  • 41
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    Just a word of advice folks – if you’ve got an IQ around room temperature or your politics is defined by the fundamental partisan lean of your circle jerk, it would really be in your interest to either:

    a) not comment….. or,

    b) fuck off.

    This blog is not playschool

  • 42
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    I am a Liberal voter from the Tony Abbott lunatic wing. I can bring in any old irrelevant metaphor, make it as dramatic and stupid as possible and pretend it’s serious debate. I’ve found that when faced with common sense which clashes with what I actually think, I’ll go each time with what I think, despite thousands of words of reasoned discussion before. When in doubt, I read the Australian to confirm my bias.

  • 43
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this superb analysis Possum!

    I wonder if the MSM will pick it up. They should …

  • 44
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    A word of friendly advice to all:

    If you think that you can do it better, get in and do it instead of bitching and moaning about the work of others. That goes for everybody, not just the naysayers here who like to dispute fact with fiction.

    Those who can do it, do it… Those who can’t, whine, groan and post offensive messages on forums…

    Now onto the job of actually commenting on Possum Comitatus’s latest edition of verbose analytical advisement…..

    This is a particularly well written and argued article, Poss. Your data and analysis appears to be sound (as always), while you obviously haven’t lost your dramatic flair. Two questions:

    – Do you have any data on what specific types of houses caught alight throughout this period in comparison to previous years, as well as the median age of said houses, types of insulation used (A lot of pre-HIP houses also used wool as a source of insulation) and location?

    – There must have been similar projects run in other developed nations previously at some time or another, which would have produced their own data as well. Is there any chance you could find out if any such information exists, then contrast it against what we know about the HIP?



    P.S. Nice choice of song to close the article out…. I’m surprised part of the lyrics haven’t caused a stir though amongst those who shall not be named. ;-)

  • 45
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    Page 4 of CSIRO report,

    “The estimated rate of fire callouts in dwellings insulated under Phase 2 of HIP at the end of March 2011 is approximately 2.5 per 100,000 per year. At this point in time, all such dwellings have been insulated for at least a year. The data and the smooth curve fitted to it show that rate is still trending downwards from that figure.”

    How can their statistic of 2.5 be considered “a different thing entirely” from Possum’s long term fire callout rate of 0.66? Also defined in terms of callouts per year per 100,000 dwellings which have had insulation for 1 year or longer.

    The CSIRO rate is 3.8 times Possum’s rate. It’s a fair difference.

    (I would like to retract my previous statement which infers Phase 1 was the ‘cowboy’ phase. It could actually be Phase 2 was more cowboy as homeowners weren’t required to cough up the cash but rather just say yes)

  • 46
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted April 27, 2011 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Your asinine response above means the truth is now confirmed: headline reads:

    ‘Possum Comitas refused journo’s gig at Playschool’

    You can’t answer my clearly put points as to how you’ve totally failed to make any case in support of the HIP….save for a tabloid, meaningless stats ‘analysis’ story, which in the bigger context, is a red herring of monumental proportions. Your analysis is like arguing over which calibre bullet killed JFK…who gives a shit…he’s dead…just like everyone who’s been coat hangered by the HIP disaster., and attack those of us who have the temerity to point out the obvious….you’re obviously on the gumnut juice 24/7.

    So what do you do?…you go down the ad hominem route…..give it away Poss..you wouldn’t get a cadetship on the Cooktown Bugle based on this performance.

    You should digest my points…then apologise to the hundreds of bankrupted, pre-HIP Australian small insulation businesses left holding the $500 million in HIP debts, and to the 3000 Aussie workers whose full time jobs were destroyed by Rudd, Gillard, Garrett etc…and then maybe it’s time to get off the gumnut juice.

    If you won’t apologise, by COB TOMORROW, for this egregious example of ‘news’ blogging, then I’m afraid it’s off to Johnathan Holmes land for you, where a national audience of media crtics will pass judgement.

  • 47
    Jenny Haines
    Posted April 27, 2011 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    This is what pass for politics in this country now, media hysterics based on smearing a politician or a government to get the advantage in the public eye, especially around election time. Never mind the facts. Never mind that you are blaming the wrong people. If there was dodgy installation of insulation, surely that is the fault of the installers. Peter Garrett did not install this insulation himself. He was the Minister responsible for overseeing the program and took steps to deal with the problems that arose. But none of that was good enough for the Abbott led opposition and their media hacks. They went for him like wild dogs. Claiming a political scalp was more important. Pathetic politics!

  • 48
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted April 27, 2011 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Kate Doak:

    are you the Poss’s sister/girlfriend/mother? Or do you drink at the same gumnut juice bar as poor old Poss.

    Answer my points about the total failure of the HIP to deliver anything of note, while destroying a viable Aussie industry overnight, or keep your puerile undergraduate friendly advice to your snotty little self.

    All blow, no go….and I mean that in the nicest possible way.

  • 49
    Posted April 27, 2011 at 9:36 am | Permalink


    See, it doesn’t quite work that way. Possum has done an analysis of whether the criticisms of the SAFETY of the HIP are valid based on the CSIRO report. If you wish to attack the analysis, get out your calculator, go through the figures and tell us where he is wrong.

    You ignore the point of the post, you raise a range of other concerns that may or may not have validity and demand Possum comment on those. Sorry, they are not what the post is relating too, go and read it again. If you want to discuss those other aspects of the HIP you raise, start a blog, research and write an article, post it and invite readers to challenge your findings.

    Posts such as yours may seem erudite and insightful on other (Cough News Limited) blogs but on this one it just comes across as yet another right wing rant.

    Have a nice day

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