Kevin Rudd, the twice former prime minister whose GFC home insulation stimulus scheme is being investigated by a royal commission, prepared a lengthy statement setting out the process by which he went about protecting Australia from recession.
One part of that was a stimulus package which included encouraging homes to put insulation into the roof space, thereby creating jobs during the installation and better insulated homes which would mean less electricity needed for heating and cooling and that meant less carbon into the atmosphere.
The government spends money to help the economy along and the nation ends up with better insulation in homes. So far, so good.
Except that four roof installers died between 2009 and 2010.
Called before the royal commission to give evidence, Rudd drew on Federal Cabinet documents to help his memory and to establish a timeline. He set out the events and thinking during that time of global economic crisis which threatened to put Australia into recession.
However, when the statement hit the royal commission, the Commonwealth, represented by counsel Tom Howes, wanted parts of the statement censored or redacted because they contained information about cabinet meetings, the inner workings of which are confidential by convention.
Rudd’s counsel, Bret Walker, objected, saying the former prime minister had no problem with the whole statement being made public.
That was Wednesday. Today the Commonwealth’s counsel, Howes, reversed opposition to the release of Rudd’s statement. “The Commonwealth now supports ventilation of the redacted portions of Mr Rudd’s statement,” he said.
You can read his 31-page statement here in full.
Part of the statement reveals that Federal Cabinet was informed, through a Government Strategic Plan on October 13, 2009, that there were no major risk issues with the home insulation scheme.
The next day, an installer, Matthew Fuller, was killed on the job.
The now uncensored statement reads: “My understand is that the home insulation program was listed as one of the five parts of the Commonwealth’s contribution to the National Strategy. I also understand that, under the major risks section of the analysis, there were no issues raised in relation to the Home Insulation program.”
Rudd told the commission today it was all absorbing keeping track of the GFC as it unfolded. The greatest fear was that Australia would slip into a recession.
“This is an all-absorbing enterprise for me at this time in terms of the data coming in from around the world, the meetings we are having with the Australian banks, the risk that were posed to various individual, Australian financial institutions of possibly falling over and the real concern that we are about to catapult into a recession,” he said.
“Much of my waking moments and some of my sleeping moments were spent on this.”
Rudd said later that he, as prime minister of the country, was ultimately responsible for the scheme.
“Nothing affects you more fundamentally than to see young men, as young as 16, die in these sorts of workplace incidents,” Mr Rudd said.
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