Friday, 5 July 2013



Government should have done more to protect insulation workers, coroner finds

Updated 11 hours 45 minutes ago
A Queensland coroner has found three men who died while working on the Federal Government's home insulation program had not been given adequate training.
The coroner has handed down his findings into the deaths of three men, including first-year carpentry apprentice Rueben Barnes, 16, who had worked for Arrow Maintenance for less than a month when he was electrocuted at a home near Rockhampton in 2009.
A month earlier, 25-year-old Matthew Fuller was electrocuted at Logan, south of Brisbane, and Mitchell Sweeney, 22, died in north Queensland in early 2010.
The men were using metal staples to lay electrically conductive insulation when the practice had already been banned in New Zealand.
Coroner Michael Barnes said in all cases the workers had not been given adequate training or supervision by the companies involved.
He also criticised the Federal Government for rushing through the pink batts program in a bid to stimulate the economy during the global financial crisis.
The coroner stated there were "process failings" relating to the handling of the scheme by federal agencies that led to "inadequate safeguards".
"The scoping of the risks likely to be generated and the safeguards that would contain them were miscalculated and inadequate," Mr Barnes' report states.
"Undoubtedly, a major contributor to the failure to put in place adequate safeguards was the speed with which the program was conceived, designed and implemented."
The report went on to say "... the detailed analysis and planning that would usually be involved in such a venture was curtailed".
The coroner said problems were remedied in a "piecemeal fashion" and "often only when an installer died".

Insulation officials referred to state authorities

In his findings Mr Barnes recommended that three managers from two insulation companies be referred to the Attorney-General for alleged breaches of the Electrical Safety Act.
One of the officials, Christopher Jackson, who is the executive officer of the firm where one of the deceased men worked, will also be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) over his testimony during the inquest.
The victims' families were in court in Brisbane today to hear the findings.
Outside court, Mark Williams, lawyer for Rueben Barnes' father, said while his client was pleased with the findings, it cannot change the past.
"He feels that justice has been done to an extent, but no amount of justice will bring back his son," Mr Williams said.
"Children should be burying their parents as opposed to the other way around."
The lawyer for the Fuller family, Aaron Anderson, said such a situation should not be repeated.
"The findings have found some level of blame not just of the employer but also those people in the State and Federal Government," he said.
He feels that justice has been done to an extent, but no amount of justice will bring back his son.
Children should be burying their parents as opposed to the other way around.
Mark Williams, lawyer for Rueben Barnes' father
"My clients are standing behind me today and just want to make sure there are lessons learned going forward in any future scheme doesn't result in the same tragic consequences."
In an interview with the ABC's 7.30, Matthew Fuller's father said Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan have never apologised to them for the loss of their son.
"We have had junior politicians apologise and the Senate inquiry apologise, but the then prime minister couldn't remember our names and has never apologised to our face," Mr Fuller said.
The Federal Opposition says the coroner's report is a scathing indictment of the Government and its home insulation scheme.
Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop said it seems the Government ignored the risks.
"The chaos within the Rudd Government continues where it left off three years ago," she said.
"The Queensland coroner's report is a scathing, damning indictment of the former Rudd government."
The Federal Opposition's environment spokesman, Greg Hunt, has demanded the Prime Minister release all documents relating to the home insulation program.
"Now is the moment for Mr Rudd to finally release all of the warnings and all of the correspondence which he personally received and which his department received," he said.
"We know that there were 10 personal warnings to Mr Rudd including four letters directly from then Minister [Peter] Garrett."
The Acting Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, has told Sky News the Government accepts the recommendations.
"We've put in place systems in accordance with the recommendations that have been made and today's recommendations by the Queensland coroner we absolutely accept," he said.
"If there are any further actions that the Queensland coroner suggests, we will implement those as well."
First posted Thu Jul 4, 2013 1:47pm AEST

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