Former prime minister Kevin Rudd will be represented by one of Australia’s leading defence barristers when he’s grilled about Labor’s botched home insulation program.
Bret Walker, SC, is regarded as one of Australia’s best silks and has represented many high profile clients, including bikies, a rugby league star and an accused Serbian war criminal.
The barrister is representing Mr Rudd when he appears next month before a $20 million royal commission into Labor’s troubled pink batts program, which has been linked to four deaths.
Mr Rudd is expected to be pressed about the scheme’s rushed rollout, including revelations two public servants were given two days to secretly cost it.
The inquiry, in its fifth week, has heard how public servants worked around the clock to meet the program’s tight timeframes, which one staffer described as “horrendous” and another dubbed “scary”.
Mr Rudd is also expected to be questioned over the program’s lack of installer training and what safety warnings he received before its July 1 2009 rollout.
The royal commission has already heard how Mr Rudd’s office believed job creation would be compromised if training requirements for the home insulation program were “too onerous”.
The scheme ended up being flooded by low-skilled workers who only required a general safety induction before entering ceilings.
Queenslanders Matthew Fuller, Rueben Barnes, Mitchell Sweeney, and Marcus Wilson from NSW, all lost their lives working under the scheme, which was also blamed for more than 100 house fires.
Insulation business owner Matthew Hannam told the inquiry on Tuesday that the program was an “absolute disaster waiting to happen”.
Mr Rudd was set to appear at the commission sometime during the second block of hearings, which begin on May 5 and were expected to last two weeks.
His counsel, Mr Walker, has previously worked for the ALP.
He was hired by the party during the 2010 election to advise on workplace relations as the Fair Work Act emerged as contentious campaign issue.
He represented the Finks Motorcycle Club in the High Court as they successfully challenged South Australia’s anti-bikie laws, and has also been counsel to Dragan Vasiljkovic, an Australian citizen accused of 1990s Yugoslav War crimes.
Mr Walker successfully defended former Cronulla Sharks player Greg Bird, who was acquitted in 2009 of charges relating to the glassing of his then-girlfriend Katie Milligan.
Mr Rudd’s legal team also includes celebrity lawyer Patrick George, who has previously represented Lara Bingle.