Friday, 5 July 2013

THE HERALD SUN: 5/7/13 Kevin Rudd sorry after coroner lashes

Kevin Rudd sorry after coroner lashes "unspeakable tragedy" of deadly pink batts scheme


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Rudd apologises for insulation deaths

PM Kevin Rudd has apologised for the deaths of four workers during the bungled home insulation scheme.
Kevin Rudd Indonesia
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd greets Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa after touching down in Jakarta on Thursday night. Picture: JAY TOWN Source: The Advertiser


KEVIN Rudd and his deputy Anthony Albanese could seek to meet with the families of three men who died as a result of Labors botched home insulation scheme to offer them a face-to-face apology.
Mr Rudd overnight offered an "unreserved apology" to the victims of the scheme, that was rolled out as a key stimulus measure under his first term as Prime Minister, following the release yesterday of the Queensland Coroner’s report.
Asked this morning if the government would go further, Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said it was possible.
"I’m sure in terms of Prime Minister Rudd for those who know him, he would certainly be prepared to do that (apologise to the families face-to-face),” Mr Albanese told Sydney’s 2UE radio.
“I’d certainly be prepared to speak to the individuals’ parents involved.
“In terms of hearts going out to these families, I can understand only minutely what they’ve gone through.”
Similar comments came from the Prime Minister, who described the deaths as an "unspeakable tragedy".
"As the Prime Minister of the country, I am deeply sorry for what has occurred and of course I apologise for these deaths, given that it was a government program," he said.
"Let's not beat around the bush. This was a government program."
Queensland coroner Michael Barnes on Thursday said the rushed economic stimulus program in response to the global financial crisis had put the economy ahead of human safety.
"Because a major focus of this program was the stimulation of the economy to counter the effects of the global financial crisis it needed to proceed far more quickly than that, but not at the cost of human life," he said.
Three Queensland tradesmen were electrocuted in 2009 and 2010 while installing roofing batts as part of the former Rudd government's controversial home insulation scheme, since discontinued.
Mr Rudd said the government accepted the coroner's conclusion.
When asked if there was too much haste in the roll-out of the program, Mr Rudd reiterated that there had been other inquiries and reports and that he accepted those reports and that the government had cooperated fully with them.
However, shadow treasurer Joe Hockey says this is insufficient, and has called on Mr Rudd to reveal what he knew about the scheme.
He says the PM was warned on 10 occasions in writing that there were dangers associated with the program and he has not released those letters.
''Four of those letters came from Peter Garrett who has not only resigned from ministry but refuses to work with Kevin Rudd, resigning from Parliament,'' Mr Hockey told the Seven Network.
''We are going to pursue this in and out of Parliament because it's not good enough to just have an apology from Kevin Rudd.
''He now needs to disclose all the warning letters he received that indicate that he knew exactly what the risks were of this pink batts program.''
Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten, whose union background has seen him spearhead workplace safety campaigns, said some contractors who rushed to take advantage of the insulation scheme betrayed their workers.
But he did not speak of the level of responsibility the government should shoulder for the deaths, saying he was yet to read the coroner's full findings.
''I do accept that some of those contractors who were coming into business to take advantage of the insulation scheme certainly abused the trust of their employees and the system and citizens,'' he said.
He added: ''It can be no greater tragedy than someone going to work and not coming home safely.''
Federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the deaths were a tragedy and the government would look closely at the coroner's report.
''I'd like to think that the government has learnt lessons from what occurred, but we can't bring back the young men who have died and that's why it remains a deep tragedy,'' he said on the Nine Network.
He also repeated Mr Rudd's apology.
''The government is deeply sorry for what occurred,'' he said.
The parents of one of the dead men, 25-year-old Matthew Fuller, have said they are considering a compensation claim against the government.
Matthew's mother Christine Fuller was asked on Thursday what she wanted from the PM.
''I'd like for him to disappear,'' she told ABC television.
Bill Potts, who was a lawyer for the father of another victim, 16-year-old Rueben Barnes, says if Mr Rudd was really sorry he should immediately offer compensation.
Mr Potts said pursuing compensation would not be easy for the Barnes family, despite the coroner pointing to failings by both the Queensland and Federal governments.
He said both governments should consider granting the Barnes family an ex gratia payment for their ''dire loss'', and not force them to pursue action through the courts.
He said the company that employed the 16-year-old had gone broke, and its directors were bankrupt.
''I suppose all that's really left to do is to go either to the state government in Queensland, who the coroner was scathing of in his criticisms, and also to the Federal Government cap in hand,'' Mr Potts said.
Peter Koutsoukis, from the law firm Maurice Blackburn, is acting for the family of the third victim, 22-year-old Mitchell Sweeney.
He said the family was seeking $330,000 in compensation from Mitchell's employer, Titan Insulation, and because the case was strong they were not considering action against the state and Federal governments.
Mr Koutsoukis said Titan was in liquidation but had insurance.
''We're focused on what happened on the day,'' he told the ABC.
''On the day this event occurred Titan Insulation was responsible for his supervision, for his training, for his instruction and all those other things.''
Mr Rudd landed in Jakarta on Thursday night for talks with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, on his first overseas trip in his second incarnation as PM.
He warned that discussions will not deliver a quick-fix asylum seeker policy.
Mr Rudd, who has been dogged by the asylum seeker issue since his 2007 election and faces surging numbers of boat arrivals, dampened expectations that the annual leadership talks would end in a "bright and breezy announcement".
He and other senior ministers have been talking about significant policy shifts to stop "economic migrants".
Mr Rudd has conceded his Government got their policy settings wrong in the past and should have adjusted their policies sooner to reflect "constantly evolving" circumstances.
"No one gets every policy call perfectly and I certainly haven't, and never pretended to do so," he said.
But he also said while he Mr Yudhoyono will discuss border security along with the economy and the live cattle trade, people shouldn't expect too much.
- with AAP

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