The minister for communications, Stephen Conroy, has issued a statement defending the set top boxes grant to pensioners, insisting it has been costed properly.The Household Assistance Scheme, which is to give a $350 grant to pensioners and disadvantaged towards the cost of a set top box, announced in this week’s budget is part of the grand switchover to digital television, Senator Stephen Conroy said today.
It will cost the public purse $308 million.
Leading retailers including Harvey Norman’s Gerry Harvey have slamed the scheme claiming they could supply a box for far less than $350 asking price.
Kogan Technologies chief executive Ruslan Kogan has also weighed into the debate, claiming the Government could be delivering the set-top box to pensioners all over Australia “for much, much cheaper”.
However, the sum includes not only the raw box but also service costs “appointments for installation, follow up phone calls and checks” Conroy insists.
Stephen Conroy challenged Harvey Norman boss Gerry Harvey to put his money where his mouth is and bid for the contract to supply set top boxes.
”If Gerry Harvey can meet the tender, the service standards, the occupational health and the safety standards, then we would welcome Harvey Norman putting in a tender,” Senator Conroy said yesterday.
”There’s a tender for NSW regional parts, and regional NSW open right now today. If he can do it for less than $350, he’ll get the gig.”
The Scheme was developed in consultation with Vision Australia and received support from a consumer groups including Media Access Australia and Choice and St Vincent de Paul.
Media Access Australia CEO, Alex Varley, said the Scheme is a model for how government programs should be run.”It has been designed in consultation with the people it will help and is sensitive and responsive to their needs.”
Free TV Australia has also come out in force today insisting it “strongly supports the digital set-top-box program” and will give recipients “the full benefits of the Freeview digital platform with 16 channels.”
“The Household Assistance Scheme is helping of our most vulnerable citizens to make the switch to digital television and I makes no apology for offering an incentive to contracted installers to deliver a high quality service as quickly as possible,” Senator Conroy said.
“For most Australians switching to digital television is a relatively easy task. This scheme is making sure our most vulnerable citizens are not left behind as we switch off the analogue signals across the country.”
And the mistakes and price gauging synonymous with the home insulation rebate back in 2009 will be avoided, Conroy insists, as the accreditation and registration process for installations has been developed in consultation with industry bodies.
The Government invites all of those companies who believe they can provide the service to tender for the scheme at www.tenders.gov.au.
Conroy also send out a detailed fact sheet on the scheme as part of the release:
Fact: the $350 figure is an average cost for the assistance package per household, not just for a set top box. It also includes:
· Administration costs for Centrelink to advise people if they are eligible, to set up appointments for installation, follow up phone calls and checks
· A set top box which is accessible for the elderly and people with special needs. The Consumer Expert Group was consulted on the appropriate set top box for the Scheme.
· Installation of the set top box and any re-wiring, antenna adjustment and demonstrations.
· An in-home warranty.
· Access to a free hotline for 12 months following installation.
Fact: Head contractors are paid according to a pricing schedule agreed in an open tender process.
· The cost of an individual installation is based on the level of service provided in each home.
· The differing service level fee structure is determined by an open tender process. The tender documents set out the different levels of service that may be provided per household.
· Service standards include safety and security, OH and S requirements, customer service for people with special needs (such as vision, hearing or speech impairment) and whether an antenna or satellite upgrade or adjustment is needed. Service standards are outlined in full in tender documents; see section 63.2 of the current tender: www.tenders.gov.au (document: DCON/11/48).
· The head contractor can engage the services of qualified installers in each region to undertake the installations. This work does not include the cost of the set top box, Centrelink contacting eligible people to make them aware of the Scheme as well as follow up phone calls, an in-home warranty and 12 months access to a support line.
Fact: All installers and contractors must be fully accredited and registered under the Household Assistance Scheme.
· Service contractors involved in the delivery of the Scheme are required to have policies and procedures in place in relation to occupational health and safety; training, awareness and competence; risk management, incident management, specific safety issues, electrical safety, unsafe premises, and working in restricted (roof and floor) spaces and on roofs. Service contractors are also required to maintain insurance which will cover cases of professional negligence, workers’ compensation and public liability.
· It is mandatory for all Service Contractor personnel and subcontractors installing equipment at Customers’ premises to either be endorsed under the Antenna Installer Endorsement Scheme at ‘domestic’ level; or have successfully completed, with a registered training organisation, the relevant units of competency to undertake domestic installations. Additional competencies are required for commercial or satellite installations.
· The work of service contractors is continuously reviewed for quality assurance and improvement. This includes random checks by Centrelink that customers are satisfied with the service they have received under the Scheme.