A lawyer representing the Rudd government has told a royal commission the home insulation program had ‘deficiencies and imperfections’.
The Rudd government is willing to admit its home insulation program had “deficiencies”, but strongly rejects claims an adviser was sacked for raising safety concerns.
Technical expert Troy Delbridge told a royal commission he suffered psychological abuse and was ultimately sacked for daring to speak out about severe safety problems.
But commonwealth lawyer Tom Howe, QC, argued Dr Delbridge’s evidence could not be trusted because of his failure to flag safety concerns in a series of emails sent to superiors.
While the commonwealth accepted the program was “afflicted with deficiencies and imperfections”, Mr Howe said he strongly rejected Dr Delbridge’s claim he was victimised and sacked for raising safety risks.
The inquiry was shown a series of emails Dr Delbridge sent to superiors, which claimed he was subject to a campaign of intimidation and harassment by senior environment department bureaucrat Will Kimber.
But he never specifically raised safety concerns in his correspondence with Mr Kimber and departmental leaders.
Mr Howe questioned why Dr Delbridge failed to make “one tittle of mention” about safety issues in the emails, given the contractor claimed his determination to raise safety risks led to his sacking.
In his third and final day of evidence, Dr Delbridge said he was in a poor state of mind and hoped the emails would elicit a discussion with someone more senior.
Counsel assisting Keith Wilson, QC, objected to Mr Howe’s cross-examination, saying the commonwealth shouldn’t be allowed to attack one of its former workers for the sake of protecting other employees.
Mr Howe’s questioning only served to discredit and embarrass Dr Delbridge whose one-year contract with the environment department was terminated after four months, Mr Wilson said.
The Rudd government program has been blamed for four deaths, one serious injury and more than 200 house fires.
South Australia’s co-ordinator general Rod Hook told the inquiry on Monday that the “poorly conceived” scheme led to exploitation of the state’s licensing regime for insulation installers.
At the time, South Australia was the only state that required installers to be licensed.
The commonwealth regarded this as an impediment in its quest to implement the stimulus as quickly as possible to create jobs, Mr Hook said.
He said the South Australian government had early concerns about the federal program encouraging unlicensed installers.
It didn’t take long for these fears to be realised, with rogue installers flooding South Australia shortly after the program’s July 2009 rollout.
“People who weren’t licensed would knock on the door and say ‘I’m installing insulation in your street tomorrow … you sign here and I will install it in your house’,” Mr Hook said.
The royal commission in Brisbane continues.