The Royal Commission into the government’s home insulation program which resulted in the deaths of 4 installers has commenced.
Shortly after the commission began it had to be delayed, which also caused the testimony of Kevin Rudd to be delayed.
The inquiry is investigating the decisions preceding the deaths of 4 installers in 2009 and 2010 and how the government’s actions may have led to the fatalities by ignoring warnings issued before the deaths.
The former prime minister took the stand at the royal commission last week but proceedings were interrupted by legal wranglings over Rudd’s 31 page written statement.
According to media reports the former prime minister is demanding that the evidence he supplied not be censored which has been opposed by the Commonwealth who are adamant that the confidentiality of cabinet be protected.
It is an unforeseen speed bump in the commission which Royal Commissioner Ian Hanger QC was not expecting. Apparently 2 pages of the former prime minister’s statement have been censored. Rudd has objected to these redacted pages.
The Royal Commissioner stated:
“Before we started the commission I thought there might be a lot of arguments about public interest immunity – I thought to myself that the members of cabinet would be the ones who are raising it, and of course this is exactly the opposite of what I expected,” he said.
The Royal Commissioner is apparently considering the issue overnight with the Commonwealth wanting parts of the statement redacted because they say it is in the public’s best interest that this be done and Mr Rudd’s lawyer rejecting this argument.
Bret Walker, Mr Rudd’s lawyer was quoted in the Abc.net post as saying:
“You should have, of course, the unredacted full statement and so should the public and so should anybody who wants to know the facts,” he said.
“So far as my client is concerned, any redacted version of the statement is not my client’s evidence. He will not put his oath to an incomplete, truncated version.”
Mr Walker says the censorship of the former prime minister’s statement would be equate to a “devastating truncation of the truth” and as a member of the public the fact that the Commonwealth wants to keep parts of the statement away from the public makes me all the more suspicious of the government’s actions and role in the deaths.
He went on to state:
“We don’t want to dance (around the matter). We want to face it front on and march straight ahead,” Mr Walker said.
“It is the current Government that has brought this about by the terms of reference. We want to answer the suggestion and we should be able to do so truthfully and fully.
Mr Hanger finally agreed to allow Rudd’s statement to be submitted in full but ruled that his questioning be conducted in closed session.
The families of the workers killed during the installation expressed through their attorneys their desire to be included in these closed session proceedings. According to their representatives the families of the deceased also want to hear the entire story of what led to the deaths of their loved ones.
Three of the four deaths that took place were as a result of electrocutions and according to what the inquiry heard just weeks before the first death more than 400,000 houses had been insulated but only 467 roof inspections had taken place.
Following the first worker fatality it was heard that safety was a priority for the program and the contractor involved says the public service didn’t reveal to him everything he needed to know to maintain a safe process.