Safety was compromised in the home insulation program to meet the Rudd government’s “horrendous” rollout deadline, an inquiry has been told.
Public servants were given five months to devise the scheme, announced as an economic stimulus measure in February 2009.
The bureaucrat charged with its delivery, Malcolm Forbes, has told a royal commission of how getting the scheme up and running by July 1, 2009 overrode considerations of potential risks.
Mr Forbes said he had never – in his 33 years as a public servant – seen such a short period between the public announcement and rollout date of the home insulation program (HIP).
“The HIP implementation timeline was horrendous,” his statement to the inquiry said.
” … some compromises were made that left risks remaining to achieve the timeline.”
A coronial inquest has already found the scheme’s rushed rollout was a significant factor in the deaths of three young Queensland men.
A NSW tradesman also died in the scheme that’s been blamed for more than 100 house fires.
Mr Forbes said he couldn’t recall receiving advice about specific safety issues before the scheme’s rollout, but knew working in roof cavities could be risky.
Under cross-examination from counsel assisting Jonathan Horton, he agreed that considerations of potential risks would have had a higher priority if time wasn’t such a key factor.
Mr Forbes, then second in charge of the environment department, said he raised his concerns about the challenging deadline with former co-ordinator general Mike Mrdak.
“We were flagging early that this was a significant challenge to us,” he told the inquiry.
Mr Forbes said he was told the deadline would be achieved and it was up to him and the environment department to meet it.
Department staffers were relieved when they met the deadline, he said.
The inquiry in Brisbane before commissioner Ian Hanger QC continues.