Kevin Rudd told insulation program was on track
LESS than a month before Rockhampton's Rueben Barnes, 16, was killed in an electrified Central Queensland ceiling, then-prime minister Kevin Rudd was told the Home Insulation Program that put the teenager to work was still "on track".
Mr Rudd told the commission he never asked for advice on whether the massive insulation program should be suspended while a safety audit was done.
He said as prime minister at the time, he still took "ultimate responsibility" for the deaths.
The larger National Energy Efficiency Strategy that included the home insulation scheme continued to earn "green lights" in advisory reports even as four installers were killed and more than 200 homes caught fire.
Only after the program was dumped did the briefing notes admit there was a problem.
Mr Barnes was electrocuted on November 18, 2009, lacking safety equipment, supervision and proper training.
His death followed that of Matthew Fuller, 25, electrocuted in Brisbane only a month earlier on October 14.
The $20 million Royal Commission in Brisbane is examining how the former Labor Government rolled out then responded to the disastrous scheme.
The objective was to insulate 2.7 million homes as part of a massive push to fend off the looming Global Financial Crisis.
Mr Rudd repeatedly explained how the home insulation scheme was just one of 33,000 stimulus projects needing monitoring by his department, meaning his attention had to be guided by advisors.
Elizabeth Wilson QC, as barrister for Mr Barnes' siblings, interrogated Mr Rudd on the days after Mr Fuller's death, when government action may have prevented Mr Barnes' death.
Mr Rudd told the commission he received missives from Environment Minister Peter Garrett, proposing changes later agreed to by cabinet.
Mr Rudd said he never asked whether the program ought to be suspended, even after the deaths of both Mr Fuller and Mr Barnes.
"Given the program was operating across one million homes with more than 10,000 employees, the position I found myself in was to take advice from the portfolio minister and those advising me," Mr Rudd said.
"What I do know, is if you form a view on partial information, you might get things wrong."
On Thursday, the Commonwealth Government overturned a 113-year-old rule that cabinet documents be kept private.
It allowed an uncensored version of Mr Rudd's statement be released to the court despite references to confidential cabinet conversations.
The commission continues today, with families of victims and former Minister Greg Combet to appear.