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Australia’s assessor scheme is in meltdown

Submitted by: MikeC (Admin) on 17-Feb-10 07:50:37 PM

Australia’s Housing Sustainability Assessment Scheme (HSAS) launched in July 2009 to provide 360,000 homes with free energy assessments, allowing homeowners to qualify for an interest-free loan of up to AU$10,000 to pay for energy-efficiency improvements under its Green Loans Program, repayable over four years.

On launching the scheme, the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), envisaged the scheme taking around four years to complete, providing work for between 1 – 2,000 Home Sustainability Assessors (HSAs).

But the system is close to collapse under the sheer weight of demand from both homeowners and the flood of assessors seeking a new career.

As of 7th Feb 2010, just eight months after launching, 235,000 home assessments had been booked, according to DEWHA’s website, and the country’s sole accreditation scheme suspended new assessor registrations on Christmas Eve following a fierce backlash by assessors over late payments from Govt and the failings of the system used to lodge assessments, leaving many without work.

Then there’s the all-too familiar tale of training providers.

Despite capping the number of homes to be assessed at just 360,000, the Australian Govt. refused to limit the estimated 1 - 2,000 assessors it predicted would be needed, leading to a chronic over-supply.

One accreditation scheme

Unlike the UK, Australia licenced just one accreditation body to oversee its assessors, ABSA (Association of Building Sustainability Assessors). Up until earlier this month, it had received over 9,500 applications, of which 6,500 were qualified and accredited – more than double the estimate needed.

On Christmas Eve 2009, ABSA had enough and ceased new registrations, saying:

While it was not our role under the Federal Government protocol to limit the number of registrations, we became sufficiently concerned with the increased number of assessors seeking accreditation. Therefore we took the decision to limit the number of registrations pending while at the same time putting our concerns directly to DEWHA.

Hard to see our nine schemes acting so nobly, eh?

It’s interesting to note that ABSA has no mandate to limit intake of assessors in its contract with the Government. One may surmise, therefore, that the Aussie Government was very angry (or embarrassed) at ABSA’s bold move, for it has now launched an audit of its role as an Approved Accrediting Organisation for the Green Loans Program.

But the problems appear to run deeper and wider.


ABSA was contracted by the Govt. to write the content of the training course provided by Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) to trainees. It is designed to take at least four days in classrooms of up to twenty candidates.

But some assessors have complained of RTOs running class-sizes of 200, and lasting just two days.

The booking system

HSAs must book assessments with DEWHA directly over the phone. Five a day is the maximum allowed. But phone-lines have been so busy assessors are reportedly spending literally hours battling engaged lines, only to later be cut off after waiting on hold.

With the maximum number of jobs limited to five a day, assessors are angry that unlodged assessments cut into the following day’s quota, severely limiting what they can earn. Some complain they have only been able to lodge three a week.

Just before Christmas, apparently with only one day’s notice, DEWHA closed phone-lines for the break. They re-opened four weeks later.

DEWHA tried to setup an online booking system for assessors but it had to close.

Controversial contract with private company

Whilst independent HSAs suffer engaged lines, one company, Field Force, enjoys direct access to the DEWHA’s database, allowing it to book 6,000 jobs a week, thanks to a controversial contract with the department.

Assessors are furious that the company, which pays less than independent HSAs can claim from DEWHA, has a huge competitive advantage; a 48-week year means it can book 288,000 assessments.

It is thought the company employs under 400 assessors.

Christine Milne: Champion of assessors

Unlike the support of, erm, in the UK, at least HSAs have Christine Milne, a Green Party MP who refuses to keep quiet the plight of assessors and the whole Green Loans Program mess. She has tirelessly campaigned via debates in Parliament and in the media – her website shows how very active on the matter she is.

Trust me Aussies, you are very lucky to have her!


Whilst the Australian scheme has suffered systemic failures in its implementation, in my opinion, the country is at least on the right track.

Many in the UK believe one accreditation scheme, to govern one set of rules, is preferable to several interpreting them differently – this has already come back to haunt all concerned, as the CLG’s recent clamp-down on schemes indicates.

Independent HSAs work for a set fee of AU$150 per assessment (or AU$200 if a self-assessment by the homeowner has not been completed), plus more for travelling further afield and a non-attendance fee of AU$50 if the homeowner is not in.

We could argue about fee-levels but this seems eminently fair to me. It removes one of the major initial obstacles for homeowners and provides stability for assessors.

Imagine if both countries learned the lessons of each other. We might just solve this C02 and energy crisis a lot quicker, and with less misery for thousands.

In 2011, Australia is legislating for homes sold to have a certificate of environmental performance, they have every reason to learn from our mistakes. We wish you all luck over there.

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Posts: 1
no data
Reply #1 on : Thu February 18, 2010, 12:21:16
Hi MIke,

The Oz story has no text/newsblast!?


Posts: 1
Re: Australia’s assessor scheme is in meltdown
Reply #2 on : Thu February 18, 2010, 12:28:04
No way, don't believe I did that! Thought I'd put it in the pending box; must've hit publish LOL :D

It's nearly finished - will publish later today.

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