News National Labor big guns grilled over batts

Labor big guns grilled over batts

Mark Arbib
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Former environment minister Peter Garrett will front a royal commission after ex-Labor senator Mark Arbib claimed the rock star turned politician was in charge of the troubled home insulation program.

Mr Arbib told the inquiry on Monday he wasn’t a decision maker and his role was to sell the $2.8 billion scheme being developed by Mr Garrett.

The ex-Midnight Oil frontman will take the witness stand on Tuesday, after Mr Arbib finishes his evidence.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd is expected to follow on Wednesday.

Mr Garrett, who had policy control of the program, is expected to be pressed about the safety warnings he received about the program while giving evidence at the $20 million inquiry.

He’s also likely to be quizzed about what concerns he relayed to Mr Rudd.

However it’s unclear whether the inquiry will be shown letters Mr Garrett wrote to Mr Rudd warning of safety risks in the scheme, as commonwealth lawyers may seek to have them withheld.

Queenslanders Matthew Fuller, Rueben Barnes, Mitchell Sweeney, and Marcus Wilson from NSW, lost their lives installing insulation.

The inquiry has heard how public servants scrambled to rollout the program by July 1 2009, with Mr Rudd’s “horrendous” deadline denying them adequate time to consider safety risks.

The home insulation debacle led to Mr Garrett being stripped of his environment portfolio and prompted calls for his resignation.

While Mr Arbib claims Mr Garrett was the one pulling the strings, the inquiry has heard confusion reigned over who was in charge.

Mr Garrett’s political adviser Matt Levey said he never understood where the involvement of Mr Arbib, who coordinated the government’s stimulus programs, ended or began.

Mr Fuller’s father, Kevin, and Mr Barnes’s sister, Sunny, are expected to address the inquiry on Thursday.

Former Labor frontbencher Greg Combet, who oversaw the scheme’s closure, will appear on Friday.

– with AAP