Sunday 31 October 2010

Labor's home insulation - 'greatest failure since World War 2'

The death of 22-year-old Mitchell Sweeney at a Millaa Milla house on the Atherton Tablelands in February, is the motivation for a full judicial inquiry that will be called when Federal Parliament resumes in mid-November.

Mitchell was the fourth person electrocuted to death in the failed home-insulation scheme that bought shame and ridicule to Labor and the former Environment Minister, Peter Garrett.

Four installers were killed in the Government programme, three of them from Queensland. 25-year-old Matthew Fuller from Logan in October 2009; 16-year-old Rueben Barnes from Rockhampton in November; and Mitchell Sweeney, who had only just returned to Far North Queensland when he was killed on February 4.

The Opposition will introduce a bill that calls for a full judicial inquiry into four deaths linked to the tragic and flawed home insulation scheme.

Although the Auditor-General's report cleared then minister Peter Garrett of wrongdoing, Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt wants a full judicial inquiry.

"It is needed because the Australian National Audit Office's report was limited to investigating the department," Greg Hunt says. "[It] would force the government to disclose the 'full failure rate' of its $2.5 billion home insulation scheme."

The bill will also seek a judicial inquiry to discover if there was a link between the program and four deaths, which the auditor-general did not have the power to look into.

"This has been the greatest failure of public policy, in a single program, since the Second World War, in my view, and it must be the subject of a full judicial inquiry," Greg Hunt said, who is seeking support of other MPs. "I don't presume their support. I will offer them a chance to have input into the substance of the bill. They will not be given a fait accompli. I would hope that the Greens and the independents do support us. I believe that this information should be in the public ... and I do not believe there is any barrier to them supporting us."

An investigation into the scheme by ABC's Four Corners in April exposed a flawed system of a massive new industry created artificially by a government subsidy. It showed that staff recruited were not trained nor made aware of the dangers involved in installing foil insulation.

"We now know the Federal Government had been given repeated warnings that the program of subsidised insulation was ill-conceived and potentially dangerous," Four Corners said. "[It] began with so many good intentions but ended in death and political humiliation."

Letters released showed the Government was out of control and out of touch in running the nationwide insulation programme. It was being abused by companies that were set up in five minutes, aiming to get a quick profit.

Operators from overseas call centre, contracted by Australian businesses, were ringing people up offering amazing deals. Even if there was already insulation installed, call centre staff insisted to "get it installed again."

In addition to the deaths, there were numerous house fires from dodgy insulations.

These senseless deaths enraged Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch, calling them nothing short of murders.

"They [Labor] killed our citizens up here with their ridiculous home insulation programme," Warren Entsch said in a CairnsBlog video interview just after his August election win. "They have destroyed businesses."

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