Victoria’s Supreme Court has turned down a $150-million class action by customers of the failed commonwealth pink batts insulation scheme.
A group made up of installers, manufacturers, and suppliers in the insulation industry claimed they took a major financial hit when the Rudd Labor government’s scheme was cancelled.
The claimants said the commonwealth owed them a duty of care.
Justice John Dixon dismissed the action on Friday, saying the group could not reasonably rely on the then-government’s policy intentions about the expected duration of the scheme when making investment or expenditure decisions.
The 2009 Rudd government set up the Home Insulation Program in a bid to stimulate the economy during the global financial crisis.
It encouraged home owners to have roof insulation installed effectively free of cost, with installers reimbursed by the government to the tune of $1600 per property.
Thousands of new installers registered to take advantage of the package.
They took on staff, expanded production and invested in new machinery and other equipment to meet demand.
Businesses complained that when the program was shut down about a year after it started, some were forced into liquidation.
The plaintiffs claimed the government did not properly address the scheme’s safety risks or ensure installers were suitably trained.
But Justice Dixon said the plaintiffs were not owed a duty of care to avoid inflicting economic loss when administering a program for the purposes of stimulating the national economy.
Following the judgment, Shine Lawyers, which acted for the plaintiffs, announced it was considering lodging an appeal.
Giving evidence in court last year as part of the class action, Mr Rudd said he would have delayed the pink batts scheme had he known there were safety risks.
Mr Rudd was cross-examined via video link from New York in June 2018.
He said he was never told of safety risks “to either workers or households”.